Thoughts on violent revolution, anarchism and social change…

I haven’t posted in a while, so I thought it was time for a good old fashioned rant… 🙂

Though I have a lot of friends who consider themselves anarchists, it’s a philosophy that I’ve never fully been able to agree with in any real sense. I often find myself in great debates over the practicality or some underlying, glaring contradictions that I can’t seem to wrap my head around. It’s not that I don’t see the problems with the way the world is currently being run, nor that I am brainwashed or don’t appreciate (and hope) for the idea of erasing the hierarchical subtext of our world and creating a more just society in its place. It’s the method of getting there that most worries me. The particular rise I see in the “F#*$ the police”, let’s-start-a-violent-revolution-to-overthrow-the-government-type of anarchism is quite troubling to me. Having experienced what happens in the absence of a functioning state first-hand, I fear the shape that would arise from such a drastic situation and see alternatives that are not so abrupt that I feel could be just as, if not more, effective.

Most of the anarchists I know believe in creating consensus-run societies. Herein lies one of my greatest problems with the whole philosophy of the violent revolution type of anarchism. Consensus right now does not favour a violent overthrow. Society does not consent to this. How can one expect to build a consensus society on the back of silencing another’s objections entirely? How does this inevitably not lead to more hierarchy—as those who have had their objections bulldozed over now become the ones who feel oppressed and ignored? I am not talking about the objections of those top elites in power, but rather, those of Joe Average; the vast majority of everyday persons who object. Those who will likely have a drastic change of life in the transition that they may well feel resent towards. Consensus doesn’t mean we all have to fully think everything is the best decision, but we do have to consent.

History has demonstrated repeatedly what can happen when a small group of people feel they know what is “best” for society and violently take matters into their own hands to try and change the situation via revolution.

Thinking practically for a minute; if all governments were tomorrow overthrown, what would happen in the world? What shape would the new, new world order take? How would society transition? Would essential services still run? Who would ensure that they do? Would it become a free-for-all in the streets in some places during the transition?

Obviously, if one believes in the ideal of consensus—then each community would be left to decide what shape this would take amongst them-selves. This leads to a seemingly never ending list of questions within my mind. Does the power vacuum created in the fall of the state lead to a crisis situation wherein a new power struggle takes place? Do those who led the overthrow get power-hungry once they have toppled the government? Do those freed from the previous system, those who were imprisoned by its rules rejoin society and how do they do that? How does society respond to those who refuse to live by consensus choices or laws, the psychopaths and the killers and such? If the world becomes decentralized, and communities become responsible for themselves, what happens to those communities without access to essential resources? Do we form some kind of global consensus on issues that affect us all? How does that take shape? Would we have to send representatives from our communities to share our objections and consent on the global stage, thus replicating government forms all over again? What happens to all the people who are currently reliant on capitalist global trade? Would their positions (and livelihood) just cease to exist in the breakdown, and what would their role in society now become? Would they be resentful of the change, having a complete upheaval in their way of life? What IS working in society right now? Do we have to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”, as they say. Is there anything worth keeping in the current system? Each question leads to a new series of questions with endless possibilities, many of the likely ones far worse in my mind than our current reality.

The status quo is violence. We, as humans, have invented so many forms of degrading, hurting, killing and maiming each other and our violence comes in so many forms; it is engrained in us that violence is the only “real” response. That oppression cannot be overcome by any other means. That the only way to respond to violence is with more violence. That perhaps, in reality, everything is violent. We cannot imagine a world without it. Perhaps there is no way to even be completely non-violent. Can we at least strive to reduce the harm as much as possible?

People are becoming more aware of the world around them. For the first time in history, the world is truly connected. It is possible to see live events from someone’s cell phone on the opposite side of the globe, to share ideas instantaneously. The technological advancements over the past hundred years are astounding. We began creating and creating and not immediately realizing the side effects and in the search for the almighty dollar, cheaper became more important than quality or overall consequences, especially when someone distant bore the brunt. We are growing consciousness and if you look around you—things are s-l-o-w-l-y changing right now. The corporate world is desperately trying to keep us placated, while others have been growing test communities with alternative economies and ways of life.

People are creating and innovating and trying to make great changes in the systems all over the world. And they are making things better. Instead of bullying our way through to change, why don’t we do our best to build consensus among those around us that change is desirable by demonstrating what’s possible. What is working. What can work. And educating on what doesn’t and why it doesn’t work for everyone.

We as humans are capable of great change. Numerous times throughout history we have seen a radical change in morality and norms. Slavery was not so long ago thought to be a natural state of humanity. Though it still exists, it is no longer a morally acceptable practice in the vast majority of the world and there are numerous laws outlawing its practice. So why can we not change the hierarchy and inequality too?

How can we drastically change the system, without necessarily breaking the system?

Government and society’s systems are intricate and complex—there is no one answer that will work universally. Practice out what works and what doesn’t in test communities all over the place. When something works, share it widely among other communities. There are already test communities popping up all over the place. They need more funding, more awareness and more ideas to be successful.

Some key things I think are necessary for drastic change and necessitate further investment, development and testing:

• Teaching peace and investing in peace on a global scale. Teach it from early childhood in every classroom, techniques such alternative dispute resolution and other conflict management strategies. Reinforce conflict resolution skills all through school and workplaces where possible. If we can spend trillions of dollars annually on militarization, we can surely spend billions on peace. Peacebuilding projects around the world are currently sparse and severely underfunded.
• Gradual reduction/retraining of the current armed forces into national guard/emergency services roles. Army functions retrained into civilian-based defense facilitators and other non-militarized functions.
• Reform the judicial and penal systems to focus on actual rehabilitation and positive reintegration into society for current offenders. Try alternative dispute resolution and alternate forms of justice in future grievances, particularly in “non-violent” crimes. Review current societies’ laws via some form of consensus. This includes local, regional, and global laws.
• A complete overhaul/creation of corporate law that favours the living world over profit.
• Restructuring local and regional governments so that they become more direct forms of democracy.
• Massive investment into the research and development of sustainable communities.
• Investment in basic needs over luxuries.
• A complete overhaul or creation of new international structures.
• Re-thinking spaces. Let cities feed cities. Rethink how spaces are connected, how they are accessible, how they blend into the environment around them, how they use energy, how they use water, how they interact with humans and other living species and let’s invest our time and our energy in that direction in the future.

My thoughts on anarchy.

Anarchy. I have heard this term thrown around a lot, especially by the “revolutionary” types here in North America. Brought out significantly in modern pop culture through the punk scene, anarchism can be witnessed in symbology throughout our society. Interestingly, anarchy has been labelled as being almost synomous with popular culture in its disruption and envelopment of every day life of those in societies.

I often wonder what people think anarchy really means. I wonder if the people who use this term have ever lived in a lawless, or semi-lawless society. If they have experienced the breakdown of society, or lack of government. I wonder what they envision a “true” anarchist society to look like. What they think will happen on the process towards anarchism. Many anarchists have themselves benefited tremendously from government systems and laws.

Anarchy and anarchism are difficult to fully define, since there are so many different interpretations and visions of what anarchism is ranging from extreme individualism to total collectivism. It ranges from libertarians and hard-core capitalist neoliberals to the most extreme “tree-hugging” environmentalists.

By dictionary definition, anarchy is the state of lawlessness and disorder, usually stemming from failure of government. Anarchism is a political theory that a community is best organized by the voluntary cooperation of individuals, rather than by government systems. There have been many so-called anarchist communities over time, but all of these communities have had some form of laws or policies that are followed and enforced by communal decree and systems that help make them run smoothly. They may not be labelled as “government” systems or laws, but they are definitely heading in that direction. Over time, one would think that communal decisions would lead us back towards creating governments. Essentially, communal decree is how governments in North America are supposed to run; through democracies. The voice of the people, doing what’s best for the people.

So where is the vision of anarchy that anarchists are really striving for? Are they looking for a different type of system than we have that are better suited to the needs of the population? That’s what I’m looking for too, but I would hardly call myself an anarchist.

I try to imagine a world without some form of government and it makes me incredibly fearful. Anarchy, in my eyes, means a lot of death. It means survival of the fittest as the government breaks down and people must learn to live in new ways without it. Those that find a community and are blessed with resources may find happiness, but those who don’t are doomed to live a terrible existence, especially at the world’s current population. Complete individualism to me is a scary existence that I would not want to experience. Anarchism to me always boils down to separation; but I also have difficulty separating the chaotic definitions of anarchy and the breakdown of government. Separating people from other people into small collectives may result in a thriving environment for some, but in the long run, who looks out for the global environment? Or those who do not fit into the collectives? Or those collectives who don’t have access to natural resources?

Some anarchists say they are rebelling from the coercion of the government, while others believe in using coercive measures to bring about anarchy such as mass violence, revolution or terrorism. In collectives there is also a lot of coercion. In most collectives, there is tremendous pressure to fit in and be part of the group, and this pressure can be a form of coercion.

If the government breaks down in a systemized manner that prevents death and destruction, is it still anarchism? Or would this require an altogether new label?

I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts or visions of anarchism, because to me, it’s the furthest thing from what I truly want or envision for the world. I can’t understand the drive I’ve seen among many educated people to be anarchists. Please enlighten me. I’m intrigued.

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