What do you picture when you hear the word “anarchy”? Do you picture a mob of angry people smashing windows and looting televisions? Do you picture fire, destruction, and carnage? Do you picture idiots with T-shirts tied around their faces throwing rocks and tipping over cars? If you are like most Americans, these are the exact images that pop into your head, and that is very unfortunate. Although many people (correctly) believe that chaos would be the absolute end result of anarchy, it is important to remember that “anarchy” itself is not a synonym for “chaos” (although it is quite often and unfairly used that way).
Unfortunately, one bad apple spoils the bunch, and most people who openly call themselves “anarchists” are those bad apples. The ironic part is, most of these people are “anti-capitalists” and, therefore, support political systems where governments control economies. How can you honestly call yourself an anarchist if you support government control of anything? To assume that all anarchists are riotous punks is no different than assuming that all democrats are welfare bums or all republicans are war mongers. We mustn’t focus on the bad apples.
Anarchy, in reality, is nothing but a political philosophy. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines anarchy as follows:
- a: absence of government b: a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority c: a utopian society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government.
- a: absence of denial of any authority or established order b: absence of order: disorderanarchy of nature — Israel Shenker>
Note: the word Anarchy itself is composed of two parts: An · archy, An (meaning without), Archy (meaning government or rule). The literal translation, then, is simply “without government”
Notice what is missing from those definitions. There are no mentions of violence, upheaval, riots, or chaos. The closest they come to any of that is definition 2b whereby anarchy can be thought of as “disorder”, but disorder does not automatically or necessarily lead to violence either; nor is disorder always a bad thing. Without disorderlygene mutations we’d still be monkeys. In particular, you should pay attention to definition 1c. Anarchy can be thought of as a utopian society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom. This is the side of anarchy that everyone seems to forget, and it’s a far cry from gasmasks and Molotov cocktails.
If you are someone who typically equates anarchy with chaos, please challenge yourself to open your mind. Try, just for a minute, to think of anarchy from the utopian perspective:
- Would you rather live in a world where police enforce laws, or one where people respect the lives, rights, and property of their fellow man to the point where police and laws are no longer necessary?
- Would you rather live in a world where welfare is required to keep people afloat, or one where all people have the capacity and drive to earn their own way?
- Would you rather live in a world where banks and businesses must be bound by government regulations and restrictions, or one where the bankers and businesses could be trusted to pay fair wages and sell goods at fair prices?
- Would you rather live in a world where governments have to control the people, or where people are responsible, sensible, and thoughtful enough to control themselves?
Obviously, we don’t live in such a world. And, sadly, we never will. Like virtually all utopian ideals, a completely free (anarchistic) society is an impossibility–constrained by human nature. Anarchy itself isn’t bad; people are. Human nature is fraught with greed, aggression, lust, and ignorance. This dark side of human nature is the only reason that people require governments at all.
Although the vast majority of societal ideals and visions of utopia are unobtainable, simply because they are bound by human nature, this does not mean that we should stop striving for those societal ideals or seeking those utopias. Just as we will never wipe out all racism, all terrorism, all poverty, or all greed, we will never be able to eliminateall government. But the grim reality that we can never be perfect, should not stop us from striving as a people to be better. We can always have less racism, less terrorism, less poverty, less greed, and less government.
Please, if you are someone who automatically envisions destructive chaos when you hear the word “anarchy”, try to think about what that word could actually mean. If you are one of the morons in the above picture, calling yourself anarchists but proving exactly why governments are necessary, stop acting like an idiot. The real road to achieving an anarchist utopia is not through violence, disrespect, and chaos. All of these activities only lead to more government. An entirely free society, where government is no longer necessary, can only exist where people respect one another, accept responsibility, treat each other fairly, and have compassion for their fellow man. In short: we don’t need government if humans are humane.
If you truly understand how wonderful our world could be without government, I hope that you will go forth–and think like an anarchist.