Anarchism is something that Ray(rob(ert))a loves. We are supposed to come correct and he is supposed to be free to collapse on my living room floor stinking of tequila and cheap perfume. When I contemplate an anarchist mass society I can’t escape my fears of us, the 1% nobody wants to talk about. No, not the wealthy 1% currently pitched as the cause of all our evils. Us, the actual 1% who are the cause of many evils. We are not ipso facto wealthy. We are trouble. Any anarchist utopia will have to work out a plan for us. You can best believe you will have us just as Christ told the disciples that they would always have the poor.
This is what Wikipedia says of anarchism: “Anarchism is a political philosophy that advocates self-governed societies based on voluntary institutions.” Good luck with that. This space and other malcontents are a problem. We don’t volunteer. We don’t comply. We are innately dissident and happy about that. If the rubric is voluntary consensus we screw your pooch. We’ll make your utopia impossible because we won’t go along or come along.
Confiscate the guns, legalize drugs, accomplish the bucket list of things the left says will foster a post-rapture heaven? Yeah. We will take over your land, fuck your mother and your sister, beat senseless or kill male kin, burn down the legal distillery, steal your car, and rampage precisely because you decided to force upon us your perfect world. Impossible? Right now, in the middle east, fundamentalist, apocalyptic Muslims are both instituting a violent version of Sharia Law and committing incredibly, senseless acts of brutality and lawlessness in the name of a more perfect theocracy.
We, the dark 1%, hear of an anarchist mass society and wet our cotton panties. Hell yeah. No constraints on our behavior? Fucking awesome. Pandora unleashed, baby. We are the small minority that does not give a fuck about your stupid voluntary cooperative resource distribution system. We’ll just loot the warehouse. Voluntary participation in governance? Fuck that. You, in your glee at destroying the thing that contains us, just gave us license to indulge in every hurt, habit, or hang-up that strikes our fancy. Fuck you very much.
Don’t worry, until the bacchanal ends we’ll have no problem getting guns, making moonshine, looting our way through your distribution centers, stealing your land and livestock, getting high, and feasting on the wealth you just inadvertently gave us by burning down the White House. We’ll be fine. You, though, who thought the answer was to start over with some version of anarcho-socialist utopia, forgot that we would steal your revolution from you. You are welcome.
It is instructive that pure anarchism has not succeeded as a means of governance. Even in Spain where it gained some footing for a time, anarchist thinking often allied itself with the labor unions or socialist/communist fellow travelers. It turns out that just replacing the existing infrastructure and civil service with voluntary institutions doesn’t automagically improve things. I hope you don’t mind your iPhone becoming an expensive paper-weight. If it’s voluntary we who consistently make a mess of things, won’t volunteer. Why should we when being criminal is working for us?
My anarchist experience is Taxi Unlimited. Taxi Unlimited is like an old girlfriend for me. She was pretty. She had a lot in common with me. She and I had great sex. Her weed was awesome. At the time I didn’t care that she used heroine. I still get sentimental for her. But the things that broke us up still break my heart.
Taxi Unlimited tried to be as anarchist and collectivist as it could. We had a few members who were true believers in the utopian vision imagined by the beatniks. We failed in part because our dedication to consensus made us vulnerable to everyone’s hurts, habits & hang-ups. We believed in an egalitarianism which drove us to accept as members people who were doing well to just show up sober and medicated maintaining. We were the inmates trying to run our own asylum. That went well.
I’m still waiting for a young anarchist to explain to me how you handle transgressive behavior in an anarchist society. I have yet to hear of an anarchist that doesn’t end up exposing themselves as lusting for Caesar. Common pot schemes without the church, without the cross and Christ, too easily turn into vicious, corrupt cesspools of badly behaved civil servants. The unintended consequence is too often the very disparity and unfairness fought against by those who evangelized a pinko utopia. Not saying it can’t be done. Just saying that you had better have a plan for us who will sabotage the factories and farms and steal what we want from the collective distribution centers.
Once we show up and do us, do our criminal, addicted, abusive, adulterous and abandoning ways, your perfect fairness is fucked. We disrupt your rationing coupons and scheduled distributions of bread and toilet paper. Our answer is to bomb the administrative offices of the central coordinating committee, assassinate the clerks that work there, shoot the warehouse workers and steal all the toilet paper and bread. Then we’ll sell what we don’t need at extortionist prices. You’ll call us terrorists in the press. We’ll call ourselves freedom fighters. The Mafia will help us because we are good for business. We know how to handle your socialism. We did it in the former USSR, did it in Central America, are doing it in China, and kind of like it. Your utopia creates disparity we can exploit.
God gave us Moses and the judges. He felt it was enough. His people, though, cried out for a king and got Saul. Thus began thousands of years of conflicted feelings about ruler/leadership. Somebody has to arbitrate what is and isn’t transgressive behavior and administer our wishes for good governance. The Levites were set apart so that they could do this. Being a boss isn’t only the cushy, privileged position some make it out to be. We still waffle between wanting the old judges and shooting furtive eyes at yet another Saul.
If you doubt the itch for authoritarian government disguised as populism or our current social virus of political correctness, try telling the wrong person, “all lives matter.” The Rolling Stone story of 2015 of a student who claimed to have been gang-raped went viral because it resonates with the narratives of some who believe men are phallic pigs. We are in an angry, petulant mood where the unspoken answer is that others have to come correct for us to be ok. As one of those dissidents, I’m not hopeful that this can happen.
In all this I hear an old fight between the prophets and the kings and later, Christ and Caesar. Caesar was benign or not depending on who held the throne. Christ was not benign for either his church or for Rome. The leadership of Jesus’ church demanded that Christ be crucified. Then the rest happened. Christ demonstrated his leadership model when he washed the feet of his disciples. Various holders of the name Caesar demonstrated their rulership with the games and a long history of crucifixion of criminals.
Caesar insisted he was God and made it law that you must worship him. We tell of Caligula as a horror and Julius as a hero. It was Julius that played a crucial role in the fall of Rome. What I know of the Pope feels a lot like a vestigial appendage harkening back to Julius. Caesar sill lurks in the liturgy of the modern church. Much of what we do on Sundays is a shadow of Roman court ceremony. We may worship Jesus and say He is our one and only. There is still a piece of our hearts that pines for Julius.
I’m pragmatic. I get it from my Dad, who retired as an electrical engineer 30 years ago. The idea of a self-governed society governed by voluntary institutions is attractive. I just can’t shake my experience as a member of Taxi Unlimited. I keep going back to 1 Samuel chapters 8-10 and the history of mixed results with systems of governance since then. It is us, the outliers and dissidents, who won’t volunteer, who remain the fly in the ointment for any attempt at an anarchist utopia.
In a more perfect world voluntary institutions would be immune to the ways in which people are hurt, have troublesome habits, or hung-up. What I love about Christ, what keeps me going back to church every Sunday, is that the church has a long history of making a home for broken people who can grow in Christ and heal. We have been doing the Way of Jesus for a couple thousand years. We know how to govern ourselves, to provide for the needy, to heal the sick, serve the indigent, and comfort prisoners. Our Way is a semblance of socialism with the added love and mercy that is otherwise missing. We are resilient because we have such a long history of serving people who are hot messes.
We also wait years, decades before electing someone to a leadership position. Most of us are hot messes at the start who have gotten our lives together over the years. We know too well the struggle to health. It makes us shy of people who blow in to our doors, present themselves as brilliant, and promise to make us ‘uge, make us great again. We’ve seen too many like that, who say they can make us winners, and find out over time that they are addicted, adulterous, have abandonment issues, or are abusive. There are annoyances in our reticence in electing leaders too quickly. We are good. We’ve been at this a couple thousand years. There is no hurry.
So, Taxi Unlimited breaks my heart. I’ve yet to hear from an anarchist who has an answer for the problems we had that don’t involve diluting the vision of a worker’s collective with allied authoritarian, socialist or communist systems of governance. I don’t have a lot of faith in the vision of an anarchist utopia. I was hurt by my experience as a member of Taxi Unlimited. Those memories soured me on the idea of an anarchist/collectivist mass society.