Our 43rd prompt comes from qkat. She asks:
Could we prosper as an intentional anarchy state… because what does good governance even look like?
Everywhere we look, we see that the nation state experiment is failing. The USA, England, North Korea, heck, even Kenya. But whenever we seek alternatives, anarchy is rarely (if ever) considered.
When many people hear anarchy, they think of total state collapse/lawlessness coupled with chaos, violence and destruction. People imagine that it’s what happens when people lose all faith in government and rebel. Perhaps to the sound of punk music. However, I find this view of anarchy rather reductive and paranoid.
Anarchy is not the lack of laws/rules, but the lack of hierarchy. There are no “leaders” and everybody is equally powerful. There is no government, and the individual does not cede some of their freedoms to a state/greater authority. There is no capitalism, which makes human beings subservient to capital. Anarchists believe that human beings can exist without there being oppression or domination of some people over others, and that we can eliminate racism, sexism, classism, nationalism and other systemic injustices.
The foundation of anarchy opposes that of other systems that insist human beings need to be “governed.” That power needs to be vested in specific people, usually disproportionately. Anarchists say that in fact, barring systemic injustices and hierarchy, human beings are generally reasonable and decent, and they are capable of self-organizing without needing to be told how. Anarchism is a belief that human beings can have co-operative social, political and economic systems without hierarchies, because the power imbalances they cause are the problem. That is, the fact that men have more power than women, white people have more power than people of colour, rich people have more power than poor people, Western nations have more power than the rest of the world, straight people have more power than queer people, and so on.
Because each and every person is as free as they possibly can be in an anarchy, they control decisions to the extent that those decisions affect them. The people have the power to make and enforce the rules they live by in their communities. The welfare of the people in the community is placed front and centre, and all else at the periphery. The quest for knowledge and the improvement of human life is prioritized. Human mobility, clean energy and connectivity (e.g. via the internet) are pursued to ensure that people are able to live where/how they want. Food is widely available and affordable – so are shelter and clothing – so that people don’t have to concern themselves with the basics. Communities/societies are smaller to enable everyone to exercise their power. There is no need for force, because no one is seeking power over others.
It is deliberate that when people hear anarchy, they imagine confusion and destruction. We have been socialized to look up to authority because it serves those in power. The same way we react when we hear the word anarchy is probably the same way North Koreans react when they hear democracy. This makes it impossible (in many minds) to imagine any other way of doing things, and maintains the status quo. We are so used to being governed, we cannot imagine governing ourselves. We are not used to having so much power. We cannot imagine taking full responsibility for our decisions and actions.
It is difficult to say what an anarchy state would look like, mostly because anarchy is against the state. Therefore, an anarchy would look nothing like a state. Given that people would be free to self-organize, all manner of communities would emerge, with their own norms and values. There might be multiple intersections or overlaps between these communities, but the one thing they would have in common is common decency and lack of hierarchy. No one in these communities would be seeking power, so expansion of territory (the reason human beings go to war) would be unnecessary. I think it would be a beautiful world.
This post is part of a daily writing experiment that I’m running for a year. I’d love it if you took part! 🙂