Philosophize This! [Home page]







Do we really need the police? - Anarchism Pt. 3 (Gelderloos, Security)

Modern Narcissism and Individualism, Anarchism as a Solution to Social Issues, Police and Conflict Resolution, Anarchist Military Strategy.


Do we really need the police? - Anarchism Pt. 3 (Gelderloos, Security)

So back in episode 188 of this podcast… we started talking about the philosopher Byung Chul Han. He is a MODERN day philosopher…south Korean born. CLEARLY one of the favorites we’ve COVERED on this show as of late for his overall pessimistic outlook…that doesn’t really FEEL too pessimistic because it STILL leaves room for his love of gardening, of working with his hands, and quiet evenings at home of being a HANDSOME gentleman, whose rumored to be single playing his piano into all hours of the night. People love them some Byung Chul Han. ALL those things are TRUE by the way. But the POINT of bringing him up TODAY is that when we COVERED his philosophy in that episode if you recall he had a LOT to SAY… about the rise of NARCISSISM in modern society…narcissism was an important part of his analysis of what you see when you look OUT at the world… and you pay attention to how a lot of people are ACTING these days. He talked about how if you’re just BORN into the world AS it’s set up today…how you can be otherwise a totally GOOD person…no bad intentions…but just in practice you spend very LITTLE time… actually caring or trying to understand the lives of people around you who are truly different from you. It really IS a modern sort of TRAP to fall into, he thinks. You’re born. You’re told you can be WHATEVER you WANT to be in this world, don’t let ANYBODY t ell you otherwise…and you’re told that AS you go ON about your day to day life… you gotta be as AUTHENTIC of a person as you possibly CAN be throughout that process…don’t worry too much about the haters if they try to get in your way. And with all this TIME people are savin not worrying about the haters…you know those pesky OTHER opinions out there…he says the NATURAL thing to do for people… is to just channel all that attention back to the ONLY place people REALLY have left to FOCUS…they channel it all back into focusing on THEMSELVES. This often turns for the average person into a HYPER-FOCUS… on yourself. A heightened focus on your personal achievements and your career. A heightened focus on self IMPROVEMENT of ALL kinds. What could be wrong with that after all? IN this world where you are a personal BRAND and a personal PRODUCT…why SHOULDN’T you be increasing your market VALUE in the corporate world, in the dating world, you have to COMPETE with all your fellow people. ON TOP of all that….You’re a MEDICAL project to be optimized by doctors…you’re a psychological project where there’s ALWAYS something to be improving. Self GROWTH. Self CARE. Self LOVE. These are SACRED CONCEPTS that you can NEVER question…and you know, if there’s ANYTHING that feels like it’s MISSING from your life, if something feels OFF to you…in the modern world: it’s PROBABLY… that you’re just not focusing on yourself ENOUGH. You know it COULDN’T be…that you’re TOO focused on yourself…that you lack any SEMBLANCE of a meaningful connection with a community that you’re participating in. With people you ACTUALLY know…issues you ACTUALLY care about that directly IMPACT you, ideas from other people that are truly DIFFERENT from yours. Couldn’t be THAT. Could it? But then again on the other hand…to BE fair to the average person LIVING today…what are you really supposed to DO? You’re a PRODUCT of the world you’re BORN into. It’s not like the way the WORLD is set up makes it EASY to have meaningful connections with a community. Which is why a lot of the books that Byung Chul Han has WRITTEN over the years focus on how the THINGS that bind and CONNECT people together are slowly disappearing from the world… and how technology, with things like the digital panopticon, just seems to be amplifying the speed of us being socially isolated from each other. This is what we talked about in episode 189 of this podcast. It’s a grim picture… if you buy what Byung Chul Han is saying. You know Nietzsche famously declared… at the end of the 19th century that God is dead. And one of the key points he’s making when he says that is that this clever invention of religion by human beings that HISTORICALLY has offered people a ready made STORY that GIVES them an easy identity, meaning to their life, moral code to follow…Nietzsche says that with ALL the advances in the sciences that are going on…again, just GIVEN the way the world is SET UP for the average person being BORN into it…it’s not IMPOSSIBLE for someone to find a way to believe in a religion…but for a thinking person it becomes a MUCH more difficult thing than it USED to be. And he predicts this will lead to a severe CRISIS IN those areas that religion used to provide for people identity, meaning, moral confusion, etc. Well in a SIMILAR sort of way…could we say that what Byung Chul Han is saying is not God is dead but something more along the lines of: Community is dead. And we have killed it. Has it become just, DIFFICULT… for someone to simply FIND a community to be able to participate in? Is that why we create these little narcissistic communities of one with ourselves? You know at the END of reading Byung Chul Han if you were expecting some sort of SOLUTION from him for how we’re going to ALTER the society people are raised in, CHANGE their values…when you’re told by him to just…live the contemplative life and go work with your hands in your GARDEN go plant some zuchinnis…to sit and think REALLY REALLY hard about the perspective of the OTHER…there’s a sense in which yeah that’s fine if it’s just ME. But how does that in ANY way get us CLOSER to escaping this digital panopticon as a society? Well here’s ANARCHISM, in THIS series coming along and saying hey, Han. I SEE the problems you’re TALKING about in the world. And in MY opinion… the MAJORITY of this is ONLY gonna be solved by fundamentally changing the way that human beings RELATE to each other into something that DOESN’T involve forced hierarchical authority. THAT’S the way this actually happens. That JUST LIKE Bookchin talked about LAST episode…that when it comes to the environment…you can try to treat just the SYMPTOMS of what is going on…you can pick up some trash, you can BAN plastic packaging but it does nothing to solve the fundamental social issues that CAUSE those problems in the first place, JUST like that… you can TALK… about the SYMPTOMS of the way that society is currently set up…you can talk about mental illness. You can talk about addiction. You can talk about a lack of focus on the family unit or community. You can talk about poverty and racism and gun violence but as it’s been SAID BEFORE and NOT JUST by Anarchists…if you REALLY wanted to FIX these problems, if you REALLY wanted to fix GUN violence for instance… you gotta eventually ask the DEEPER question of why do we have a society…where so many people want to kill each other in the first place? What is it ABOUT the way things are currently set up…that seems to RELIABLY lead to abuse…of SO MANY different types? Well it’s a FUNNY THING about abuse…you don’t typically have an ongoing abusive relationship with someone who sees you as an EQUAL. No, when parents abuse their kids…it’s because they think at some level that CHILDREN are inferior to them…you are to be seen and not heard if you’re a child , you speak up and you’re gonna get smacked. When people abuse their spouses, domestic violence, or abuse of an ethnic group or abuse against a particular sexual orientation…THESE THINGS HAPPEN because these people are seen by the abuser as LESS than them. In other words to an anarchist: it’s all CENTERED…around this deeply embedded notion of HIERARCHY that people commonly use to understand their reality. But maybe if society was organized differently it would PRODUCE people with different values. And maybe if we had more people with different VALUES…we’d see LESS of the type of behavior that makes people so pessimistic about the future. Point is: we HAVE to be able to IMAGINE a DIFFERENT WAY that the world might be organized in the future, and maybe Anarchism is the way to GET us there. Now for every ONE of these people on the anarchist side of things that wants to IMAGINE a better world…there are MORE people on the other side that are SKEPTICAL of this whole grand strategy of theirs. Because from ANOTHER perspective that’s pretty common today… removing forced hierarchical authority…totally RESTRUCTURING the way we organize everything…that just sounds… INCREDIBLY naive. I mean, among other things it’s a COMPLETE DENIAL…of SO many of the PROBLEMS that ALWAYS arise when you’re trying to organize large numbers of people even in the BEST of circumstances. A person on THIS side of the argument might say how about one of the most OBVIOUS examples of this… what we KNOW to be true… about human nature. They might say are you REALLY, as an anarchist, going to sit there in your little Anarchist PTA meetings and DENY the fact that this whole EXPERIMENT that we’re running here, called civilization…is NOT a guarantee. The SAFETY you experience day to day is not a GUARANTEE…there is a thin VEIL of civility… that lies between people getting along great on one day…and CHAOS on the NEXT day. AS we’ve SEEN… when government systems have collapsed in the past…it is just HUMAN NATURE to be selfish, and greedy, independent, VIOLENT if we HAVE to be. How can you NOT EXPECT that EXACT SAME THING to HAPPEN en masse, once this anarchist society of yours is put in place and there’s no CENTRAL authority to hold people accountable? There are actually SERIOUS… anarchists… out there who are saying…that society would be BETTER OFF as a WHOLE…WITHOUT things like the police. And JUST… by SAYING that…to a person on THIS side of the argument: you INSTANTLY show your hand as someone who’s NEVER ACTUALLY lived in a bad neighborhood. You’ve never actually witnessed first hand the EVIL that people are capable of EVEN when they’re NOT desperate. You know it’s not a COINCIDENCE you probably grew up in a middle class neighborhood, had the luxury of going to some liberal arts college and LEARN about all these ideas…no you just sit there on the internet with a totally PRIVILEGED view on how much we can sweet talk this PRIMAL nature of people away. But what do you DO when BAD people with BAD intentions show up on your doorstep and there’s no one to call to come SAVE you? That’s the REALITY of the world. Now an anarchist might HEAR this…stand up…start to clap very slowly…and say uh congratulations. You my skeptical friend have officially achieved the HIGHEST level of BRAINWASHING that’s possible by the state to make you think that the people around you are all psychopaths… and that you’re HOPELESS without the state being there to keep you safe. You’ve been promoted. You are now a lieutenant colonel in the army of morons. Congratulations. Because there are Anarchists out there like Peter Gelderloos…he’s the author of a GREAT book called Anarchy Works…where the goal of the book is TWO fold. It’s ONE…designed to answer some COMMON QUESTIONS about how an anarchist society could EVER work in practice…and TWO…it gives DOZENS of examples throughout history… of moments where, as HE puts it: people have in different ways at different times demonstrated mutual aid, self-organization, autonomy, and horizontal decision making whether they called themselves anarchists or not. And to the skeptic…who thinks the world couldn’t POSSIBLY function without some sort of central POLICE force in place to FIND and punish all the criminals…he might start by saying that FIRST of all…let’s take a closer look at what’s going on in the modern world and understand WHAT it is that the police are actually DOING. Let’s try to ANSWER that. What do the police do? Well in ONE sense…there’s a very SIMPLE answer to that question: OBVIOUSLY…police enforce the LAWS. But what are LAWS? LAWS…are just RULES for your behavior, handed down by people in positions of central authority. You don’t FOLLOW the rules. You’ve now committed a crime. You commit a crime now you’re a criminal. And CRIMINALS are locked inside of a concrete cell so we can keep people SAFE from them. And that SOUNDS great…on paper…until you CONSIDER the fact that once you PUT laws, ON PAPER…they become CODIFIED into something that can be enforced based on the LETTER of the law… rather than the SPIRIT of the law. In other words to Peter Gelderloos: it often DOESN’T even matter if ANYONE is currently getting HURT by someone’s behavior…the police ALWAYS have a LIST of predetermined codified reasons to ENFORCE social order EVEN when it’s not necessary. To SEE this in your OWN life: think about what it’s like if you’re someone who drives…when you’re driving down the road…and you look into your rearview mirror and there’s a cop behind you…is there ANY part of you…that feels SAFE…and THANKFUL that the cop is there? Like thank god officer friendly’s here to patrol the streets and keep everything so GREAT for me. No…you think omg am I doing anything wrong? Uh, I’m gonna keep my hands at 10 and 2…I’m gonna signal 800 feet before my turn. I’m gonna be a GOOD little boy so this cop doesn’t pull me over and take their day out on me. Now is THAT a reaction you have to an institution in society that’s just KEEPING everybody safe…just RESPONDING to the needs of the public…or is that your reaction to a situation where there’s policing going on that is CLEARLY… enforcement for ENFORCEMENT’S sake? But WHY…would the police ever DO that if their JOB is just to protect and serve people? It doesn’t make any sense! Well it doesn’t make SENSE from THAT perspective…but it starts to MAKE PERFECT sense if you remember from episode one of this series: that an anarchist is NOT thinking about the state or ANY central authority as though its some ethereal concept like the will of the people or to protect and serve…a central authority like the police…these are just PEOPLE. People who are given positions of POWER… where it’s THEIR responsibility to constantly JUSTIFY that power. The WAY you gotta think about it as Peter Gelderloos puts it is that: “The state is a mafia that has won control over society, and the law is the codification of everything they’ve stolen from us.” The law is a way to codify and legitimize the CONTROL that the state has over individuals. So yes, the police enforce the laws…but CONSIDER the fact that LAWS are DISPROPORTIONATELY applied to CERTAIN communities rather than others. CONSIDER the fact that SPECIFIC laws have been put on the books just to allow for police to enforce the law MORE in certain lower-income areas. Consider the us vs them dynamic that often EMERGES from this kind of setup. Could it be that the presence of the police in this disproportionate way… just PRESERVES social inequalities, makes it so we DON’T have to know our neighbors, could it be that it spreads fear and resentment amongst people, or even alienate entire communities? Do the police… just STRENGTHEN social division? To Peter Gelderloos, the police do not EXIST because crime is RAMPANT… and that the world would be pandemonium in the streets WITHOUT them. He says police…often get a lot of hype in the media and movies as being these superheros. But through NO fault of their own…the REAL reason police are here…the REALITY of it is that they are a TACTICAL arm of the STATE…to be able to maintain the state’s monopoly on VIOLENCE…and CONFLICT resolution. The state don’t want ANYBODY OTHER THAN THEM able to DO either of those two things. The FACT is: within self-governing communities of people who KNOW each other… it is ENTIRELY POSSIBLE to resolve conflicts on your OWN…WITHOUT some sort of militarized enforcement body of the police. It’s been done ALL THROUGHOUT human history IN MOST societies since we were hunter gatherer tribes. But the STATE…doesn’t want you to KNOW THAT…they WANT you to feel SCARED of your neighbor…they want you to believe that the ONLY WAY we can EVER resolve CONFLICT is THROUGH the medium of the state and it’s various legal appendages. Think of a COMMON STORY you hear in today’s world…someone’s living in a neighborhood or an apartment building…they put their kids to bed…the people next door are having a party and they’re playing really loud music. Now HOW common is it…for someone in this situation to be MORE WILLING to CALL the POLICE on their NEIGHBOR...who then KNOCK on their neighbor’s door to tell them to turn their music down…than to just go over, talk to their neighbor, hey kids are going to bed can you turn it down a bit, and RESOLVE the situation themselves? Not a lot of people feel comfortable DOING that…and can you BLAME…them for not wanting to ask their neighbor? HERE’S something to consider: Imagine YOURSELF in that situation. And imagine the PERSON living next door to you is a FRIEND of yours, cool person. You KNOW they’re not gonna hurt you. They CARE about their relationship with your family. Well would you call the police on your friend instead of going over and talking to them. Of COURSE not. In fact at almost EVERY point in human history BEFORE this if you’re living NEXT DOOR to someone and they’re having a party…you’re most likely INVITED to that party. But in the SPECIFIC setup of TODAY’S world where social BONDS are so hard to achieve…again the world where Byung Chul Han says everything that binds and connects us is disappearing…you’re likely NOT invited to that party in THIS world. And in what would OTHERWISE be your local community in basically every other era of human history…in TODAY’S world…talking to your NEIGHBOR is something that has to be OUTSOURCED to the police. As MANY anarchist philosophers have aptly pointed out…in a society where social BONDS between people are weaker…that society will OFTEN turn towards things like increased police presence… and increased SURVEILLANCE…just to be able to organize social interactions. And in the right climate of technology…you MIGHT even see this type of society ALSO start gravitate towards something like a digital panopticon. But let’s…slow DOWN here with all we’ve been talking about. Because the SKEPTIC of anarchism PROBABLY has a bit of a response to give here. Before we get TOO far into this PICTURE of a fantasy world where everyone is holding hands…I gotta say you’ve done a REAL GOOD JOB so far of avoiding the REALITY of the world that I talked about before. I mean, sure…maybe police wouldn’t have to EXIST in a world where the biggest PROBLEMS we face…are you telling your neighbor to turn down the volume on who let the dogs out. But how about the ACTUAL world we live in…you know the one with murder, rape, human trafficking. What about dealing with people with severe mental illnesses? What about organized crime of a scope and level of complexity that it takes a SPECIALIST to be able to DEAL with PROPERLY…you know somebody who works with this type of crime every day. I mean are there ACTUALLY…REAL WORLD EXAMPLES of communities where the police cease to function, and then ORDINARY PEOPLE step up and do JUST as good of a job as the POLICE were doing before? An anarchist like Peter Gelderloos might reply by saying not ONLY have situations like that HAPPENED throughout history…but there’s REASON to believe that in SOME areas…having MEMBERS of a COMMUNITY resolve their own conflicts may actually work BETTER. For example…take the events that went down in February of the year 1919 in the city of Seattle, Washington. What’s become famously known at THIS point… as the Seattle General Strike. Now a General Strike… is a particular KIND of strike where workers from a LOT of different industries ALL gather together and WALK out of their jobs in solidarity to demand any number of things, higher pay, better working conditions, employee benefits, you get it. So in Seattle, in 1919 in particular…what was going ON was cost of LIVING was going up after WW1…wages weren’t going up along with it…and the people decided to take things into their OWN hands and organize a strike. Now…just to put this into perspective… we’re NOT talking about a strike…where there’s a couple hundred people outside in the rain waving signs around…in the Seattle GENERAL Strike…this was close to 70,000 people. And what HAPPENS when a strike is THAT BIG…is that the entire CITY starts to shut down. When you DON’T have longshoremen taking resources in, or transportation to move all the stuff around, or medical services or garbage collection, or ANY of the CRUCIAL things a city needs…local government can’t just FIND a way to REPLACE these things overnight. So instead of allowing basic services to fail and for untold amounts of suffering to go on…the workers and the labor unions that were striking realized…their problem isn’t with the PEOPLE of the city of Seattle. Their problem was with their employers. So the WORKERS were going to organize a bottom up, community driven effort to KEEP the city functioning while the workers were on strike. The TYPE of bottom up organization that we’ve mentioned in the last couple episodes. What the workers quickly realized after taking over the city was that regardless of whether there were managers or governors there to put their fingerprints on everything…they were totally capable of keeping the city running. In fact what they REALIZED…is that they were ALWAYS the thing that kept the city running. It’s almost like when a company buys another company and the new company comes in and realizes that workers don’t need a bunch of bosses LORDING over their work all the time, micromanaging, that the workers can usually do things better on their own. That’s kind of what happened here. They maintained public services, they started public cafeterias to get food out to anyone who needed it… and ALL of this, to some of the people who witnessed it and wrote about it: this started to foster a mutual FEELING amongst the people of community. The people started to feel a PART of the city…in a way they hadn’t before. They felt RESPONSIBLE for the city. Now the BIG question here is what happened without the police? Did the world inevitably descend into chaos? Well no…turns out people were MUCH more interested in working TOGETHER than burning the city down and ransacking each other’s lives. Same way it’s been for MOST of human history by the way. Same way if we didn’t have the police tomorrow…I wouldn’t magically go to my 80 year old next door neighbor and start stealing doilies off her kitchen table. But what HAPPENED? Well, WHEN conflicts INEVITABLY AROSE in Seattle…the temporary council made up of representatives from all the different unions appointed volunteer people, ALL of whom CARED DEEPLY about the safety of their community…and THEIR job when a CONFLICT arose was to go down to where it was happening… and under a STRICT policy of non-violence…they would TRY to de-escalate the situation. They did this with all SORTS of conflicts between people violent both AND non-violent, it was a NEEDS BASED APPROACH…to CONFLICT resolution. And far FROM things descending into CHAOS…the whole operation supposedly went VERY well. Turns out with nobody starving because of the public cafeterias, with the increased feeling of solidarity among the people feeling a mutual responsibility for the management of their city…turns out under CERTAIN circumstances… people are much more INTERDEPENDENT than they are INDEPENDENT, they value cooperation over constant competition with each other, and they can handle things themselves like ADULTS through delegation… rather than ALWAYS needing some sort of authority figure LORDING OVER them and making decisions. You know again, the way social organization has happened for MOST of human history. But the skeptic of anarchism can say back to this: OKAY, so then WHY…are murder and rape and other horrific crimes such a thing then in the world WE live in? If people ARE CAPABLE of BEING this way…then why AREN’T they? We have a lot of this stuff going on EVEN in a society WITH a militarized POLICE force, you think REMOVING consequences like that is going to make this situation BETTER? Well an anarchist might reply by saying… that understanding the REASONS people DO horrific things to each other can be pretty complex. Let’s take it one at a time: take murder for instance. You asked why is it a thing. Well, let’s look at the statistics and figure out WHY people commit the murders they do. MANY of the situations people FIND themselves in where they’re committing these murders say in a gang or out of desperation…ULTIMATELY are caused by socio-economic factors DRIVEN by the SPECIFIC STRUCTURE of the hierarchical system that we’re living in. If it’s not that how about the GLORIFICATION of VIOLENCE in the media. How about the lack of FOCUS on the family unit, or the community or having ANY sort of meaningful connection with the people around you. How bout the increasing rates of mental illness. The increasing rates of drug addiction. You know, Murray Bookchin had a quote one time where he was describing the EFFECTS our society HAS on the psychology of the people living in it…and he said something to the effect of you lock people in solitary confinement long enough…and EVENTUALLY they start to go crazy. IF the skeptic of anarchism is WORRIED about what would happen if we UNLEASHED people that are raised in this society with no BARRIER of the POLICE between them and their neighbors…how much of the CRIME that they’re worried about happening…is caused by SOMETHING deep down in our human NATURE…and how much of it is BECAUSE of how the world is structured? The HISTORY of the world PROVES… to some people, that the current setup has PRODUCED this situation… and that if we CHANGE the values we prioritize in culture… we will CHANGE our situation. To THIS the skeptic might just say…fine. Let’s not argue about human nature anymore. I’m done trying to convince you that the people AROUND you can be a threat to your existence…and to be fair to your position: maybe you CAN just TALK to everyone and make peace with most people…WITHIN your own COMMUNITY. But that’s the THING about what you just said: it’s JUST…IN your own COMMUNITY. What happens though…when OTHER communities of people start to threaten YOURS from the outside? What do you do then as an anarchist? Do you call campus security? Tell them they’re all fascist? How about the most EXTREME version of this…what HAPPENS when something like a GLOBAL SUPERPOWER decides that they don’t really CARE about your bottom up organizational methods…they just want to take over and OCCUPY the territory you’re on, FORCING their culture upon you? What do you do then? Well COUPLE things need to be said to answer this: FIRST thing… is that it’s pretty WIDELY accepted by anarchists that you can NEVER be TOTALLY safe from imperialistic threats from the outside. Basically EVERY society, anarchist or not, is gonna have to deal with other societies that try to threaten it. That’s just a fact of the world unless if literally EVERYBODY was not an imperialist. The SECOND thing that needs to be said is that if coming INTO this question…if your overall military strategy …is just to be the biggest, baddest military on planet earth that NO other country can compete with in a full on, frontal conflict…if you’ve accepted that as your CHIEF GOAL...then there’s no way ANYONE will EVER be able to convince you of alternative options. You’re GONNA NEED TRILLIONS of dollars in taxpayer resources and a powerful central authority to continue to IMPOSE that military presence on the rest of the world…at THAT point you become kind of like the POLICE of the entire world, unsurprisingly to an anarchist doing what states and unregulated capitalism ALWAYS does: they always seek MORE control over MORE resources… until they run into an inevitable war or conflict. But an anarchist like Peter Gelderloos might point out… that there are WEAKNESSES to having that big of a military and global presence. Several examples: for one it is an INCREDIBLY expensive thing to maintain…which then makes it incredibly EASY to get overextended if you’re spread out across a global campaign. Another weakness is that the soldiers in a global campaign like that are often fighting because they have to obey orders… rather than fighting for some inspired CAUSE that may improve their resolve. Another weakness is that the bureaucracy of government can often times make decision making slow. Chain of command ITSELF is something that’s pretty fragile. Soldiers at the lowest ranks often aren’t filled IN on all the strategic objectives going on…so if the enemy TARGETS the people at the top… it can lead to chaos or CONFUSION in the lower ranks. I mean he’s just saying: it’s not all sunshine and rainbows to be the global superpower there’s strengths and weaknesses to EVERY position. Now CONTRAST this setup…with a more ANARCHIST military setup…which WOULDN’T involve the HIERARCHICAL structure of something like a traditional military UNIT…instead of UNITS…anarchists form something more like a MILITIA. Now what’s the DIFFERENCE between the two? Well there are many! But typically in the anarchist setting MILITIAS are things that start to resemble the voluntary communities we’ve talked about in the last two episodes. Militias… are horizontally organized by VOLUNTARY MEMBERS that decide to join and stay, they often can LEAVE at any time. When the militia needs a leader for combat organization…leadership is appointed AS NEEDED by taking a vote from the members. So there’s no rigid chain of command. Which not only makes each MILITIA MEMBER more COMPETENT in their ability to fight without LEADERSHIP constantly having to give them orders…but it ALSO makes the militia as a WHOLE more ADAPTIVE than military units possibly CAN be. BECAUSE an anarchist militia is NOT just one part of a BATTALION that’s all executing some LARGER war game that’s going on at the TOP of a chain of command…militias are capable of defending the LAND that they know the best… the LAND that they CARE about the most…and DOING so in a way where they are FLUIDLY MOVING from guerilla style tactics to more FRONTAL style assaults in coalition with OTHER militia units… SHOULD their objectives align. As you PROBABLY saw coming JUST like in the communities we talked about in the other episodes…where these communities can talk to each other make arrangements and form confederacies…the SAME thing would go on at a MILITARY level as well…SHOULD an imperialistic threat like this ever emerge. So to answer the question of the skeptic from before of what happens if a global superpower wants to INVADE you…the goal would NOT be to try to meet them in battle head on…that’s just STUPID. But instead to STEER into the different STRENGTHS of militias as fighting units…to use tactics that have been used against OTHER global powers EFFECTIVELY all throughout history. Think of the American Revolution. Did the American rebels want to meet the English in the middle of a field musket to musket? Alright, I shot at thee. Now its your turn to shoot at ME dear boy. I’ll wait…four or five minutes for you to reload. No moving though that’s CHEATING! No, it’s like they leaned into their strengths they used guerilla tactics, they cut off supply lines, they attacked garrisons ran away. THESE ARE THE TYPES of TACTICS… that are by the way the SPECIALTY of a highly mobile, adaptable militia… that can TRULY WHITTLE AWAY at an over extended global superpower. And THINK of how this has been done with global powers occupying countries in the last 50-100 years. Peter Gelderloos in his book talks about the Ukrainians after the end of WW1 and their anarchist militias being HIGHLY successful against the white army and the soviets despite being HEAVILY outnumbered and outgunned. Or how about the Spanish Civil War and the militia style combat that succeeded there against the fascists...or many OTHER insurgencies from recent history that have had success? Now HEARING this…the skeptic of anarchism here MIGHT just say…okay. What I’ve learned from you here today my anarchist friend… is that there is no question about the security of a society that I can ask you… that you don’t have an answer as to how ANARCHISM might deal with that problem in a different sort of world. And I LIKE the SOUND of your world by the way for what it’s worth… I LIKE the idea of knowing all my neighbors, being CONNECTED to the community around me, physically, myself helping to PARTICIPATE and MAINTAIN the community of people I live in. I love the SOUND of that…but even if we ACCEPT EVERYTHING about this hypothetical world that you’re painting, that things COULD WORK if only we GOT people to a place where they UNDERSTOOD all this stuff and HAD these sorts of VALUES…I FEEL like it’s just necessary to ALSO say that EVEN IF WE ACCEPT THAT…we’re NOT, quite…there…yet. It’s just not FEASIBLE right now…GIVEN where people actually ARE in their views of the world. WE DO live in the society that Byung Chul Han talks about. We DO lack social bonds. And if you DID implement this stuff overnight we WOULD have SOME kind of chaos that NOBODY wants to see. BIG fan of the conversation though. SAY what you want about opening people’s minds up to alternative ways things can be set up. And I can AGREE with the anarchist POINT that greater levels of liberty, equality and solidarity…that these are ALL part of a larger HUMAN tendency that TRANSCENDS anarchism to DESIRE these things whenever its actually possible. But again BECAUSE it is AT PRESENT something that’s so infeasible to just IMPLEMENT…it ALMOST starts to seem like Anarchism is LESS of an actual POLITICAL philosophy…and it starts to seem MORE like it’s an ETHICAL philosophy for individuals to apply to their lives. Maybe anarchism is a set of ideas you bring when you’re raising a family, or starting a company. Maybe you encourage this horizontal decision making and mutual aid whenever you can actually effect something…and then maybe eventually through enough generations we will actually GET to the type of world an anarchist is describing. But that that HAS to take time. It HAS to come about at a pace that corresponds with culture, or else to the skeptic, again: you’re just NAIVE if you expect anything OTHER than a violent bloody revolution to bring it about. The anarchist could say back to that look, you can call me naive for IMAGINING an ALTERNATIVE way that things might be organized. But I could call you naive back for being someone who FAILS to recognize… that SOMETIMES these LEAPS forward when it comes to how ETHICAL we’re being in the way we organize things…HAVE to COME when a considerable portion of the people in a given culture… can’t IMAGINE the world in any other way. Think of the slave economies in the southern United States in the 17 and 1800’s. It was UNETHICAL to run an economy based on slave labor. Many people wondered how you could EVER run an economy WITHOUT something like slave labor. But then they DID… because it was the right thing to do. You know there have been MANY moments all throughout history where people thought that organizing the world in a more bottom up way was impossible and yet they FOUND a way to do it anyway. To the anarchist we are IN a situation here that is kind of like that. Because in the immortal words of Murray Bookchin when we’re FACED with a CHALLENGE like this that SEEMS impossible: “we must DO the impossible. Or wind up with the unthinkable.” Look EVEN if SECURITY isn’t the problem…we are FAR from letting anarchism off the hook when it comes to it ACCEPTING it as HOW we should organize society. It’s a fun exercise to IMAGINE alternative ways that the world might look in the future…but there’s so many more questions: What about the economy? What about the tragedy of the commons? What about private property? Does capitalism HAVE to be at odds with anarchism? Are there ways to combine the good parts of both…or are they just fundamentally incompatible. By the way if you KNOW an anarchist in your personal life… and wanna see them turn red and start shooting steam out of the their ears like they’re a steam whistle…just tell them that anarchism and capitalism are perfectly compatible they LOVE that. Tell ‘em United States brand libertarianism is basically the SAME THING as anarchism. Just make sure you’re faster than them they might come running after you. Next episode. Thank you for listening. Talk to you next time.

Let Us Connect

HomeContributeDeveloped by a listener

This website, its content, and its copyright belong to the Philosophize This! podcast by Stephen West.