Archive for March, 2010

Anarchy has a bad reputation – no doubt. In recent years Anarchy has become synonymous with angry young men & women with red balaclavas tied around their mouths running through streets smashing the windows of Nike shops. Or in other cases dressed in white padding & holding home-made armour, ready to charge police lines, as did the English Wombles. These men and women are passionate about the future of society and strive to influence it. Feeling powerless in the face of a seemingly unconcerned society on the brink of destruction, this is their way of fighting back.

However, the problem with violent revolution is that it is ineffective. Society has a history of violent revolution that is never successful, because revolution is absorbed by a society that thrives on conflict and violence. It is everywhere all the time. In war. In the police force. In the criminal class. In the school yard. It is inherent. A system in which violence is inherent will never truly be overthrown by violence – it will just re-emerge in a new form (from feudalism to communism/capitalism or from communism to capitalism). The other problem with violent revolution is that it places too much faith in political power. It works on the basis that those in power are corrupt, and those without access to power would do a better job if they could take power for themselves. One only needs to look at the left wing revolutions around the world to see that society continues to chug on with disregard to wealth distribution, environment and humanity regardless of who is in charge.

The capitalist system is like a machine that carries out processes. And we all participate in its processes. The machines sole purpose is to increase economic output. The machine will carry on this function regardless of the fact that the human race and the Earth is being pushed into catastrophic territory (over population, climate change, ecological destruction). Now, we can say that Rupert Murdoch or some other rich and powerful person is responsible for this and he/they should be overthrown, but this is missing the point. Rupert is as much enslaved to the machine as any other member of society. How do we know that under his powerful smile a heart does not lurk that wishes for a more meaningful life? If he disappeared, someone would simply take his spot, which is true for any job. If society is a machine and we are its parts, then parts can easily be replaced. Violent acts of revolution can arise from anger and jealousy – they have more than me and this is unjust. But if you replace the rulers, you also have to take the stress, illness and complications that come with the rewards.

Calling society a machine is not as abstract as it may seem. Speak to many who work full-time and they will talk about its drudgery and meaninglessness. Talk about the problems of the world that our lifestyles are exacerbating and people will tell you how powerless they feel to stop it. That’s because we are! We are locked inside something that we can’t change. The machine carries on relentlessly. If in violent revolution we try to overthrow it the machine either flexes its muscles through the military, the police force and the media, which crushes dissent, or it allows its leaders to be overthrown and simply has someone else fulfilling the function of leader. Are the leaders of feudalism, capitalism and communism, in practice, really that different?

So what does Anarchy propose? And I am not talking about the Anarchy of angry protesters, but the Anarchy of organised alternatives to the self-destructive machine of human endeavour, which in our present case is Capitalism. I lift some ideas from the book, Bolo Bolo; (a bolo is a kind of anarchist collective that would survive through co-operative means by, for example, growing their own food). The only way to defeat the machine is to devalue the concept of work! This is the truly radical idea in the book. It is the obsession with work in contemporary society that threatens our existence. Work on an individual level, an organisational level, a national level, an international level is what drives the machine onwards, ever forward, toward the dangers we all can sense; yet we can’t stop doing it! (On tonight’s news Julia Gillard, the deputy prime minister of Australia, was interviewed and stated: ‘the most important thing to do in life is to work’). The author of Bolo thinks we should spend four hours a day tending the collectives agricultural needs. And the rest of the time we spend doing what we want. Sounds unlikely? Well yeah, of course it is. But in principle, regarding the survival of the human race, he’s right.

So having lost faith in politics or revolution to affect real positive change, I began to realise that trying to implement the ideas of Bolo Bolo on a personal level was the best way forward. Working part-time. Creating a vegetable patch. Making the home as environmentally friendly as possible. Cutting down on car use. Trying to leave as little an imprint on the planet as possible. Concentrating on creative tasks. There are some that have gone further, and pushed into the realm of the collective – (check the link, these people do not look like anti-capitalist crazies!).

It would take a mass transformation of consciousness for an anarchist system to work. People turning their backs on work, money, the demands placed on them from the cradle to the grave, and working towards a more Earth-friendly, human-centered co-existence. But it seems so implausible. Too easy to crush such a way of life, such is the incessant desire for wealth and power. Like John Lennon, we imagine.


Some years ago my wife and her previous neighbour agreed to pull down the fence that separated their front yards, and created a shared garden. Recently a new neighbour moved in and started pulling out all the plants they had planted and is demanding a new fence to be built. This is a micro-cosmic example of why anarchy will only ever be a Utopian dream, and never a reality. (Perhaps we can retreat into a practical-fantasy reality and build our own bolos within our physical-social networks?).

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