RobertCunningham - Ethically Speaking

Anarchism is not a dirty word

If I hear the word anarchism being used as synonym for chaos and/or violence one more time, I am going to become chaotic and violent!

Sure a few anarchists have and do engage in violent activity. However, to reduce anarchism to violence and chaos is as ridiculous as reducing Christians to paedophilia or Islamic faith to terrorism.

Despite mainstream media representations, anarchy is in fact a nuanced political philosophy with a rich tapestry of classical writings. It is deeply concerned with the nature of right and wrong and therefore has a strong correlation with the discourse of ethics.

The word anarchism is derived from the Greek word anarchos, which means without authority. While it is commonly associated with bloody violence and rage, it must be understood that anarchists generally believe deeply in an ideology of love.

Indeed, as a fact or condition, anarchism is perhaps the original political philosophy of Homo sapiens since the world has witnessed many stateless societies by way of groups of people who have lived without a dominant institutionalised authority.

As a political philosophy, anarchism is concerned with the art of the possible. Specifically anarchism attends to the question of whether it is possible to obtain both freedom and fairness at the same time. This makes anarchism unique in that no other dominant political philosophy in modern history has aspired to the goal of simultaneously culminating freedom and fairness.

Capitalism, state socialism and fascism all trade off freedom and/or fairness in order to secure another goal. That is, capitalism trades away fairness in order to secure freedom. State socialism trades away freedom in order to secure fairness. And fascism trades away both freedom and fairness in order to secure power at large.

If one can accept that the simultaneous culmination of freedom and fairness is good, and that if something is good then it is therefore ethical. Then one must further reason that anarchism, in theory at least, is an ethical political philosophy.

In practice, the closest wholesale adoption of anarchist philosophy in modern history occurred in Spain in the 1930s. However, in many respects there is evidence of anarchist philosophy in all societies. The weeds that grow within the cracks of the pavement are a great metaphor for anarchism. It resembles that part of the human spirit that cannot be crushed.

Contemporaneously anarchism has manifested in a diverse range of activities, including open source computer software programming, squatting, mutual credit schemes, friendly societies, syndicate unionism, home-schooling and the creation and maintenance of co-operatives.

While you may not be convinced to hang your hat on the philosophy of anarchism, you should be aware that next time you read the word anarchy in a mainstream newspaper it will undoubtedly be used in a misleading way.

It is true that the goal of anarchism to simultaneously culminate freedom and fairness is utopian, but as Oscar Wilde once said, a map of the world without utopia on it is not worth having.

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