I'm an anarchist.
There, I said it. Today that's become the equivalent of standing on the street corner with a sandwich sign that says "I'M INSANE AND I HAVE A BOMB" but I'm not afraid to admit it. Because I don't have a bomb, and very few true anarchists do. But the philosophy of anarchism has become so overhyped, misinterpreted, and slimed by the media and (big surprise) the government over the last 100 years that what was once considered a legitimate, albeit radical, political philosophy has been reduced in the public's eye to a bunch of crazed suicide bombers running around up blowing buildings in a bleak, post-apocalyptic hellscape.
Personally, I enjoy discussing politics. I know a lot of people find it boring but I've always thought it was interesting and fun. But it annoys me that I often have to hide my being an anarchist during debates, because the minute I let it slip they go off into the same old rant, telling me to go move to Somalia if I want bloody chaos. Most people don't have a fucking clue what anarchism really means. It's much more complicated than just blowing shit up, and I'm not going to go into the whole system right now. But I do want to clear up some of the myths surrounding anarchism, and maybe clear some of the shit out of people's heads.
The classic response that always pisses me off is, of course, the old "look at Hurricane Katrina! Do you really want THAT as our way of life?" The answer, obviously, is fuck no! But people's perception of anarchism has become so perverted that they see it as a synonym of "chaos." I'm here to tell you that it's NOT the same thing. Go ahead, look at Hurricane Katrina. Take a good look at New Orleans during the aftermath. Housing developments flooded, rivers of sewage flooding through the city streets, corpses floating on peoples' front lawns, refugee camps overcrowded and starved for medicine and shelter. The city was completely unprepared, and paid the price in lives. You say it's impossible to create a working anarchist society in that environment. Well no fucking duh, try creating ANY system of government in a situation like that! Go down into some starving, disease-infested project in New Orleans the day after the storm and try setting up a democracy. Or a communist collective. Or even a fascist dictatorship. The people won't care about your plan, they'll be too busy scavenging for food and dying of infection. If a hurricane hit an anarchist society, how is that the anarchists' fault? It's so frustrating and unfair when people say that New Orleans is an example of the failure of anarchy, and then point to some idyllic little town as an example of government's success. Of course the town looks better, it didn't have a fucking tidal wave tear it to the ground! (I could also discuss how the government's slow response was one of the reasons Katrina was so devastating, or how the police went door to door confiscating peoples' guns leaving them defenseless against looters, or how local civilian groups following anarchist-style strategies were responsible for many early relief efforts, but that's a different story.)
Another shining example that always seems to spring up in conversation is the Africa reference. Try explaining the philosophy of anarchism, and some idiot always bursts out that if anarchy didn't work in those places, because there WASN'T anarchy there! Again, we get that fusion of anarchy and chaos in peoples' minds. To them it doesn't matter what the causes of violence were, anything that involves people killing each other is automatically anarchy. "Anarchy means warlords constantly fighting each other, with innocent people caught in the crossfire like in Somalia!" they say. Well, reread that sentence. There's one big mistake that undermines their whole point: if there are warlords, then IT'S NOT FUCKING ANARCHY!!! Anarchy doesn't mean chaos, it means a lack of government and laws. If there's some warlord or mobster sitting on his throne holding his AK-47, issuing commands to thugs and subordinate drug lords, then how is that a lack of government? People think that "government" only means big, industrialized infrastructures like in the US, and doesn't apply to gangs and mobsters. To an anarchist, government simply means anyone who has power over others. There is no difference! If anarchists held a successful revolution, the mafia bosses and gang leaders would be running for their lives same as the dictators and corrupt CEOs. The warlords wouldn't gain power; they'd have it torn down around them! And if some guy did manage to build his own little mini-empire in an anarchist world, it's the anarchists and the people's job to bring him down and restore their freedom. Those crime lords are OUR enemies too, so don't lump us all into the same category. (Interestingly, historians have also presented evidence that before the Europeans' arrival, many African societies were organized with no central leadership or formal laws. A council of elders made decisions but the people of the tribe were not required to obey. And these people managed to create some of the first large cities, so they were by no means ignorant savages randomly killing each other.)
A third typical line that always spring up is "anarchy has never worked, and it has never contributed anything good to the world." Looking at the state of anarchism today, that may sound like a legitimate point. Most "anarchists" these days seem more interested in breaking windows than breaking the chains of the oppressed masses. But it was not always like this, and it can still go back to how it used to be. So go get that dusty old history book in the back of the shelf and start flipping through. Look up the Spanish Civil War, and see who fought on the antifascist side. Democrats, republicans, Stalinists, communists and, oh look, anarchists. Anarchists militias and armies like the Iron Column fought side by side with socialist and communist allies against the fascist uprising backed by Hitler and Mussolini, in support of the democratically elected government Franco was attempting to overthrow. Yes, that's right. Anarchists were out there busting their asses in the field, taking down fascist bastards while the bold, heroic leaders of the US and Britain were still appeasing old Adolf and turning a blind eye while he rebuilt Germany's army. And they weren't doing it because their base had been bombed, or their international trade jeopardized. They did it because it was the right thing to do. And what did they get for this? Thanks from the Allies for their courage? No, more like centuries of persecution. They got assassinated by Pinkertons and corporate thugs in the 1800s, blacklisted by paranoid government officials, blamed for incidents like the Haymarket Riot that new evidence shows were likely perpetrated by the police, and stereotyped as a gang of bomb-throwers. You say anarchy has never worked in the long term. Well no shit, every time they try it they end up getting attacked by governments!
Look, I'm not going to try and convert your or anything. I wouldn't be much of an anarchist if I didn't respect your right to think for yourself. It just pisses me off when people spew all these myths and stereotypes around without ever giving anarchism a serious thought. How about doing some research next time before you accuse others of being crazy, Einstein.