MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE
I don't need to tell anyone
that there's a whole lot wrong in the world. Just read the newspapers or watch the news. What is the cause of all these
problems, can they be solved, and if so, how can that best be done?
If you believe the newspapers, anarchy is the worst thing that can happen to a society: chaos, the right of the strongest, scenes of savagery. However, that situation is just a total mess -- not what anarchy means at all!
Anarchy is therefore a situation where no one rules over anyone else. Who wants to be ruled over or dominated? No one, surely? Then it's logical not to rule over or dominate others. No bosses, no servants. Everyone is free. That is one part, perhaps the most important part of the story. The other part is about co-operation, or rather conviviality: living together in society. One person has more opportunities than another, perhaps because of good luck, while another person has bad luck. Anarchists don't want to exploit others, but to live in such a way that you don't hinder each other and you help each other when needed. Simple, or what? If everyone agreed with this and put it into practice, then in one step we would have a fair world!
IS ANARCHY POSSIBLE?
Many people, however, think that society would become a shambles if there were no leaders. Therefore, they think that anarchy, living together without power, is impossible. They cannot imagine that all people would behave responsibly on their own accord. In theory, though, this is possible. And also in practice there are many possibilities. Beating up your opponent as soon as you get into an argument is something that very many people don't do. Is this because they are afraid of being punished? No, it's because they are friendly! So, why not extend this much further? In any case, it can't be bad if all the people who think coercion and power are unpleasant protest against it. And of course they can live in such a way that they do not coerce others. This in turn shifts the world a tiny amount towards anarchy. This idea could then catch on with others, and then...
GOOD BY NATURE -- BAD BY NATURE
Human beings are by nature neither good nor bad. It is true that people have a tendency to make things good for themselves in order to survive, but they can also reflect on what they do and sympathise with each other. In this way, they can realise that what is pleasant for you can sometimes be unpleasant for others, and that it is better to act in such a way that you always consider the whole situation, thinking of what is good or pleasant both for yourself and for others.
In the past, there has been a lot of protest against coercion, repression and exploitation. This has often been successful. Almost everyone who lives in this part of the world has at least a roof over their heads and enough to eat. Exploitation of people has mostly been transferred to the 'third world'.
A BETTER WORLD FOR EVERYONE
Fortunately, there are now also protests against exploitation of the 'third world', for example by the global justice movement. What's noticeable about this is that a large proportion of the people in this movement are not rebelling in order to improve their own situation, but because they are striving for a better world for everyone! A similar lack of self-interest can be seen in the case of activists who struggle to improve the welfare or freedom of animals.
ANARCHISM IS ABOUT LIFE AS A WHOLE
In earlier times, anarchists were mostly involved in class struggle and/or issues of individual freedom. More recently, a wide range of campaigning issues have been added: women's struggles (including abolition of all forms of power within people's private lives), anti-racism, animal rights, defence of nature and the environment, etc. Everything, even the (very) personal, is political! And politics has nothing to do with suits and ties, but encompasses life as a whole and concerns everyone.
Anarchists (at least, most of them) do not vote. Not just because there isn't any political party which they agree with, but mainly because they object to the whole system of parliamentary democracy. They don't want to transfer responsibility to a bunch of administrators. Some others say that if you didn't vote then you shouldn't protest, you've had your chance already. But has there ever been a democratic choice to adopt parliamentary democracy? No.
IS ANARCHY BETTER THAN DEMOCRACY?
Many people think that democracy is the best of all practical options for humankind. Democracy literally means that the people are in power. That is different from anarchism, where no one is 'in power'. In reality, what we experience here isn't real democracy. 'Ordinary people' get to vote once every four years. Apart from this, there is a very disappointing lack of opportunities to contribute to the democratic process. Rulers are often bad at listening, and desire one thing above all: to rule!
AIMS AND MEANS
A world without coercion is by its very nature a world without violence, i.e. without armies and weapons. Nevertheless, there have been anarchists who used violence. They thought that the aim (a world without oppression and domination) justified the means (e.g. an attack on a person in power). It is more consistent to say that the means must be in agreement with the aims. Otherwise, you lack credibility. Most anarchists oppose violence against living beings. Nowadays, the discussion is mostly about whether violence against objects is justifiable: smashing windows, breaking machines and weapons, etc. In my opinion, the best course is to strive for anarchy in a way that is entirely free from aggression. But what is wrong with 'making harmless' objects such as weapons, which are themselves intended for use in combat where the aims supposedly justify the means?
One of the greatest perpetrators of problems in the world is the economy of the wealthy countries. A basic principle in a capitalist economy is that it must always grow. That means that more and more raw materials are consumed (pollution), people (including children) and animals (bio-industry) are exploited, and that there are always winners and losers. Many wars and other miserable situations that people find themselves in can be traced back to this greed-based economy.
A different economy is essential, otherwise the world will be ruined by war, environmental catastrophes or other short-sighted human behaviour. Instead of competition (where the 'winner' acts quickly and to their own best advantage), an alternative economy is based on co-operation. There is enough food and water for everyone in the world. There could also be enough fine places to live for everyone. This alternative economy could be called the 'contrary economy', as its principles are contrary to those of the current economic system.
What would happen if going to school was no longer compulsory? I think that nearly all young people would still go to school. In any case, this should be the case if schools really were what they ought to be: places where lots of things can be learned, and where each young person had the chance to put together an interesting programme of learning by mutual agreement with others.
For work, a similar argument applies. Having a paid job often means nowadays that you have a boss watching over you. Or you may have to manage others ('subordinates'). Both of these situations obviously do not fit in with the anarchist ideal! Many jobs also require substantial involvement in polluting or poisoning the environment, animal suffering or exploitation of people. As you become more critical of these situations, the number of jobs you can do with a clear conscience diminishes.
But if you do not take part at all in the conventional economy, what can you live on? The problem with today's society is that you are almost forced to take part in the dominant economy, because money is needed for everything, and everything has been taken into ownership by others. If all work was voluntary and everyone had a basic income, then everyone could be usefully employed with agreeable tasks.
A STEP FURTHER: THE GIFT ECONOMY
Imagine that a baker wants to bake bread but has no flour. The miller offers a sack of flour to the baker and the farmer gives some grain free of charge to the miller. The baker bakes bread and shares it out, including to the miller and the farmer. Free of charge, of course. This is the gift economy! It is the opposite of the economy of greed. People do not see each other as enemies but as fellow human beings, people you can co-operate with and give something to with pleasure. You trust in turn that they will not forget you either.
LONG-TERM -- SHORT-TERM
When looking for solutions to problems, it's mostly the case that only the short-term effects are examined. Because of mutual competition (between individuals, businesses or countries) hardly anyone dares to take steps that are beneficial in the long-term. Reduction of pollution is a poignant example of this.
Anarchy is very much directed towards the long-term. In the short-term it is not practicable on a worldwide scale. But working towards anarchy is always practicable, and in doing so, a small part of the world becomes nicer!
POSSIBLE -- NECESSARY
Capitalism, dictatorship, exploitation, sexism, racism, xenophobia: all these things are possible, but not necessary. A world where 20% of the people own 80% of the wealth (goods, food, money) is not necessary. A better world is possible, and it will come about if a large number of people want it!
It has been calculated that if all the usable land was allocated fairly amongst people, everyone would get about 1.7 hectares. You would need to obtain everything from this: dwelling space, space for sports and games, food, water.
This seems like quite a lot of land, and it is indeed amply sufficient. Very many people in the world use only a small part of this. The average Dutch person, however, makes use of a much larger 'ecological footprint', namely around four hectares, two and a half times the 1.7-hectare fair share! While this remains the case, Dutch people are effectively preventing people from the 'third world' from improving their situation.
FROM ADDICTION TO AUTONOMY
Many people are addicts. They are not so much addicted to drugs as to other things. 'I need coffee, otherwise I'm not human!' say some people in the morning. Many are also addicted to work. They don't know what to do if their work suddenly stops. Others are addicted to watching TV. That is easy to do. You don't have to think so much. The programme is there ready for you.
But of course addictions such as these are not necessary at all. Even a consumerist attitude to life -- a 'light' form of addiction -- is not necessary. In contrast to addiction stands autonomy: an active attitude to life. Autonomy does not mean that you do everything alone, but it does mean that you need to exercise self-control. This means that you have to think carefully from time to time, and that takes a little bit extra effort. But I think it is worth the trouble, because who wants to a person or thing to control their lives?
Even in ancient times there were philosophers who called themselves world citizens, instead of 'inhabitant of Athens' or whatever city, district or country they lived in. In this way, you can also express the idea that you are concerned about everything as a whole, not just about yourself, your family, circle of friends, city, district or country. Cosmopolitans or world citizens (they mean the same thing) are, just like anarchists, in favour of abolition of national borders. They are not interested in external attributes of people, whether they are men or women, white, pink, brown, yellow, red or black, whether they are homosexual or heterosexual, whether they are Dutch, Japanese, Nigerian or Chinese, small or big, old or young, sick or healthy, rich or poor, fat or thin, it doesn't matter at all! We all want enough to eat and drink, a roof over our heads, peace, conviviality, pleasant and interesting activities and similar things.
FEAR OF BEING DIFFERENT
Many people like to feel that they belong, and preferably to a large group of people. They do what most people do, what their friends do, what their family does and have done in the past. What is written in newspapers and magazines.
A relatively large number of young people are anarchists, because young people sometimes quite enjoy being different. Only those who consider independent thought more important than belonging, and who consider anarchy the most attractive ideal, continue with it.
ALL ANIMALS FREE!
For animals too, the world could be a much better place than it is at present. It is possible to eat no meat, even to use nothing of animal origin, including leather and wool. The future could be one in which all animals are free. In which they -- just like the other animals who were already free -- live their own lives without interference from humans. Also, people could ensure that more woodland and other extensive nature reserves are created, so that there is once again more space where animals can live undisturbed.
This is a short story about anarchy. There is of course a lot more which can be said about it. Also, the anarchist movement is very diverse. There is no official 'party line' as you find with political parties.
Anyone can call themselves an anarchist, and interpret that in their own way. All the same, you could say that all anarchists are, as it were, allergic to coercion. To be honest, I think that this is something we are born with -- not just anarchists, but everyone!
Here are just a few names out of the many anarchists from the past, whose books should be found in any good library: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Michael Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, Leo Tolstoy, Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis, Emma Goldman, Voltairine de Cleyre, Gustav Landauer.
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