Written by Amanda Rachwitz.
Often in life, it seems that when something needs addressing, it presents itself in various forms over and over again. It also seems that if I ignore whatever that thing is, it presents itself more potently, so much so that I inevitably feel it as if that thing is screaming in my face, inciting me to silence the screaming by addressing whatever that thing might be. In this case, the thing is actually a small collection of things— a collection of incorrect thought patterns I once fell prey to in various aspects of my life. I see too many intelligent and well-meaning people falling prey to them, as well.
I won’t ever pretend to be infallible or incapable of flaws in my own thinking—goodness knows I have fallen for these or others commonly known. Yet I managed to pry myself from the claws of illogical thought or purely emotive, reactionary thinking. My hope is to offer the rope to others, so they might consider with a larger lens the true nature of what they choose to engage in, and perhaps, see the source of it in themselves, so they can address the issue from within. I preach to a not-so-distant-past-version of myself as much as to anyone else.
Lest I be accused of doing precisely the thing I’m attempting to reduce—criticizing anarchists, that is—I preface what I wish to communicate with this disclaimer:
This isn’t my attempt to criticize any one individual, or to insult, bring down, or piss off people. Nor is it an attempt to foment controversy. Precisely because I’ve experienced enough of the aforementioned, I make this effort to appeal to people who consider themselves rational thinkers. By identifying their not-so-rational thought patterns, they begin to clear the fog in their own minds. Anyone who’s cleared any kind of mental fog ever in his or her life (e.g., an anarchist who turned from statism) knows what peace and satisfaction it brings. As such, my goal here is to remove fog, remove illogical patterns, and help more people have peaceful calm and clarity—not to cast a dark eye or to sling mud at anyone.
Most of what I’ve observed can be condensed into a few short ideas, represented by a single statement or paraphrased sentiment I’ve seen a hundred times or more. I’ll list the most common and pervasive, and then (hopefully) demolish them in a logical, simple way.
“Guy/Girl anarchist should not wear that, operate their page that way, debate that way, refuse to discuss my preferred topic, or block those who disagree.”
Not everyone must be friends, obviously. We all know a multitude of humans out there exist who don’t think like us at all and who do things we don’t like. So why is an anarchist who’s choosing to pay attention to another anarchist (or even be their Facebook friend) so concerned with these things?
The problem comes from the unspoken assumption behind these kinds of comments. The person criticizing knows that lots of other people in the surrounding world act in a way they don’t like, yet this person doesn’t make an effort to go around commenting on every single other person disagreeable to them. This person is criticizing the person in question as an anarchist. The hidden assertion is that if one is an anarchist, a set of attributes or actions exist that they should or should not engage in. Plainly, if the anarchist being criticized isn’t in alignment with the views or personality traits of the criticizing anarchist, then the one being criticized is somehow a less decent or less acceptable anarchist.
The fact that some anarchists feel a need to repeatedly criticize the way other anarchists post pictures, how they dress, or how they choose to give their attention to others, highlights a massive non-sequitur that deviates from the entire concept or goal of just spreading the idea of anarchy and voluntary interaction. This behavior does nothing whatsoever to serve the idea itself or to further it. It only serves to obsess over the individual intricacies of the people spreading it by creating the impression we hold membership in some kind of exclusive “club” now, and as such, we should all look and act and speak with the same (arbitrary and undefinable) caliber.
Commentary, mockery, and focus on analyzing everything about the individual person in this way reveal an obvious underlying assumption. This subconscious (and absurd) assumption posits that, somehow, just because a large number of humans suddenly no longer want to be ruled or to rule others, this automatically means the entire group of humans must look, sound, act, or be a certain way. It seems even self-proclaimed anarchists actually somehow expect a majority of other anarchists to be a lot like, or just like themselves.
Let that sink in.
Few things prove more counter-intuitive to spreading the ideas of self-ownership and “don’t rule me and I won’t rule you,” than those who subscribe to the idea spending all their spare communication time insulting and complaining about those already on their side. Even worse, most do so because they assume that just because they themselves removed a huge contradiction in their own minds, they’re now infallible in all areas and that everyone else who stands with them on the idea of anarchism should also agree with them on every other or any other little thing.
Do these sorts of anarchists really suddenly assume that because someone intellectually discovered the contradictions in their own minds concerning theft, kidnapping, and murder that suddenly every other preference and quality matches their own?
Let’s move on to the next absurdity, which just might be worse than the last.
“That anarchist is just parroting (insert name). Their ideas are not their own.”
I think I can reveal the absolutely irrational notion of “anarchists parroting” being a negative thing, by just repeating this illogical sentence in other forms.
“Rothbard was just parroting Lysander Spooner.”
“Christians are just parroting Jesus.”
“Constitutionalists are just parroting the founding fathers.”
Whether an idea is wrong or right and whether an idea is good or bad, people do one thing when they believe in that idea. They repeat it in order to disseminate it—to spread it to other minds as fast as they possibly can.
As an anarchist, the idea that matters most of all—that no human has the right to use the threat of violent force to make another person do what they want—is the one I care to spread.
To even further lay waste to this absurd commentary, consider the ultimate genius of communication lies in its ability to clarify speech to the most simple terms and fewest words, using the words and terms that best represent the message you’re conveying. The more adept a person gets at communicating, the more their speech evokes the same types of words and concepts, in the same format, in the same sentences, every single time. Anyone who also wants to cut communication down to the simplest form of that same truth will tend to pay attention to whoever communicates those ideas clearly, simply, and profoundly, and then emulate that style. Only so many ways exist to say “don’t use the threat of force to make others do what you want,” or “don’t violate free will.” The idea itself must be spread, and the more clear and undiluted the language that communicates it becomes, the more potent and digestible the idea becomes, expanding its reach to a larger audience.
In terms of spreading an idea: Originality is not only not a focus or a goal—originality is also entirely irrelevant. In fact, it’s simply important that more and more people DO repeat the same exact idea the same way. Every person that does so has his/her own value to bring to the table, for no other reason than certain particular people saying the words have more influence than others simply because of the way those people choose to present themselves.
The last and final meme phrase repeated almost gets its answer from the paragraphs above, since the supposed complaint proves irrelevant to the spreading of the idea of self-ownership. The meaningless meme commentary is as follows:
“So and so (insert name) is an attention whore,” or “He/she just uses his/her looks to get attention.”
Once again, these types of statements prove non-sequiturs to the idea that those of us who are anarchists simply want to not be violently ruled and we don’t want to violently rule others. In order to reduce the likelihood of violation, we need more people who think that way living around us. In order to get more people around us thinking the same way, so we can further reduce the possibility of violation, we have to talk about the idea and change people’s minds.
Which brings me to the terrifying, scandalous punchline: FIRST, WE HAVE TO GET PEOPLE’S ATTENTION SO THEY’LL LISTEN.
To speak anarchically:
So long as the person talking about Anarchism (posting videos, writing articles, talking on Facebook, talking to their friends) is not violating the free will of another, there is no illegitimate or wrong way to get attention; what captures one person’s eyes and ears won’t capture another’s and so on. If a person’s beauty helps turn more people’s eyes and ears so they listen to that person say, “Let’s stop stealing, caging, and murdering each other,”then that’s a DAMNED GOOD THING.
For those who thought they joined a club, wherein Anarchy serves as some personality trait that sets a person apart in their identity, they’ll soon find themselves disappointed and disillusioned. Anarchism isn’t an active hobby, personality trait, club, or attribute. It’s not a solution to anything. It is not a lifestyle, nor is it a rubric for how to live. It isn’t an answer to your everyday problems.
Anarchy is the lack of a problem. It is the lack of someone trying to use the threat of death to make you do what they want.
There’s really two kinds of anarchists: Those who say “I won’t violate anyone,” and then continue to live their lives without any interest in spreading the idea or talking about it with others, and those who decide that spreading the idea matters to them, so they talk about the idea in order to reduce the number of people in the world who advocate the threat of force.
Neither way is wrong.
No one said anyone had to talk about the idea of self-ownership and actively go out and spread it, and no one said that anyone had to suddenly like all the other humans they meet who also don’t want to violently rule anyone. Figure out who you want to be friends with, and be friends with them. If they bother you, don’t associate with them or waste your time picking on them while still associated with them.Decide whether you want to make common cause with someone because they spread the idea of Anarchism passionately, or whether you just don’t like them as a person enough to associate with them.
We can all live the idea, but we don’t all have to talk about it. We can spread the idea, and the idea will sound the same, and we will parrot each other, but we won’t all do it the same way or have the same presentation. There’s no club—just a bunch of individuals trying to get others to leave us alone. If you expected a church or an ideology, you’re going to have a bad time. At the end of the day, it comes down to living free, doing what you want, and letting others do the same.
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