I have to admit, I’ve never really understood the accusation made against anarchism that it was utopian. Such an accusation could only come from a radically different understanding of anarchism than I hold personally. I guess one might say I’ve a kind of pragmatic or scientific approach to anarchy. By this I mean that the goal of individual sovereignty, of achieving a society organised in such a way that no-one can, or feels any incentive to, infringe upon the sovereignty of another.
I recently saw a comment on a New Scientist article that said ‘Having no authorities would be fine if we were all saints.’ As a non-subscriber I can’t add my own comment to that article so instead tweeted my immediate response: ‘An authoritarian system would be fine if we were all saints. But we’re not. There will always be those that abuse positions of power.’ A simple reversal that perhaps highlights the absurdity of the original comment. If we were all ‘saints’, whatever one might understand by that term, the social structure would be irrelevant. Pretty much the argument of the Zenarchists, that a prerequisite of an anarchist society will be that the majority of people become enlightened. This might be part of the goal of the recent #EtherSec Project Mayhem campaign. To inspire more people to take their first steps on the path of self-awareness and thus help the world meet this prerequisite.
But other than this Zenarchist idea, which perhaps still sounds a bit idealistic and utopian, what do I personally understand and mean by the term anarchism? What do I wish to see happen? What kind of societal organisation do I propose?
Well that is just it. I do not have some utopian vision. I don’t have some idealistic blueprint for the perfect society, nor did I ever claim to have one. What I always have had is a pragmatic approach. I see that democracy, whilst not perfect, has successfully reigned in some of the worst excesses of authoritarian government, through the limitation of the kind of power government can hold and I think to myself ‘more of that please, more limitations on governmental power to restrict our individual freedom’. What is utopian about that desire? I see democratic governments, perhaps under economic influence from corporations and despotic business partner countries like China, or perhaps because simply because we’ve allowed them to be hijacked by an authoritarian agenda, backsliding towards tyranny, and I think to myself, we need to resist this tendency.
I see governments attempting to interfere with consensual adult behaviours and think to myself that ‘Hey, none of their business!’ Why don’t we have protected sovereignty of our bodies in addition to our minds? We rightly have the freedom to think, believe and say what want, sovereignty of mind, so why do we still surrender sovereignty of our bodies to a bunch of elected officials?
Their maybe others that consider themselves ‘pragmatic anarchists’ and I confess I am currently blissfully unaware of who they might be or what they may have said about it, but for me pragmatic anarchy means:
- Working to increase freedom by securing increased rights of the individual and consenting adults, towards the goal of complete individual soveriegnty of mind and body.
- Working to oppose and resist all laws, proposed and currently enforced, that infringe upon individual sovereignty of mind and body and the behaviours of consenting adults.
- Ending authoritarian style relations in your personal interactions with others.
- Finding peace with oneself and ones relationships with others. Techniques such as awareness meditation and/or progress upon a mystical path can help with this.
- Inspiring others to do the same.
Anything utopian about any of that? If so I don’t see it.