Have you ever had a bunch of ill formed thoughts floating around in your head? You have a general feeling of what you’re trying to get at, but you don’t know how to put it all together and articulate it. It’s extremely limiting and frustrating Have you ever felt stuck like this only to discover someone else who had the same ideas, but who was able to solidify your thoughts and eloquently express them? It’s an amazing and exciting feeling, like coming up from under the water and gasping for breath.
I had this experience yesterday when I stumbled across an essay by Emma Goldman. I had been aware of her loosely and recently subscribed to a podcast Audio Anarchy. My interest in anarchy as a political philosophy has been growing for some time. I guess one of the things that got me curious about anarchy in the first place was just how socially maligned it is. I’m just naturally curious about anything the rest of society seems to reject in a knee-jerk fashion and without much thought. I think that’s also what got me interested in investigating atheism years ago.
I had a rough idea of what anarchism was before discovering Goldman, but nothing substantial. I knew that it meant freedom from coercion and that most people incorrectly believe it is synonymous with chaos and violence.
The particular essay I discovered was “Anarchism: What it really stands for.” The Audio Anarchism podcast was reading it in two parts and I was really blown away.
For a while now I’ve had this loose idea revolving around how society seems to be moving people towards something akin to farm animals. I’m reminded of the scene from the Matrix where Morpheus explains to Neo how people have been turned into batteries.
I don’t think we’re anything like the batteries analogy, but I feel that in our society there is this general trend towards farming our productivity.
Get married, buy the house, the minivan, have kids, go to your job, go to church, keep your head down, watch football, consume corporate media, talk about American Idol, take one vacation every 20 years, work like a dutiful cog. All this is aimed at keeping you in a neat little box with the illusion of freedom and choice.
In her essay Goldman references Ouida who says:
“the State only aims at instilling those qualities in its public by which its demands are obeyed, and its exchequer is filled. Its highest attainment is the reduction of mankind to clockwork. In its atmosphere all those finer and more delicate liberties, which require treatment and spacious expansion, inevitably dry up and perish. The State requires a taxpaying machine in which there is no hitch, an exchequer in which there is never a deficit, and a public, monotonous, obedient, colorless, spiritless, moving humbly like a flock of sheep along a straight high road between two walls.”
Goldman, in this same essay, also touches on the feelings of disillusionment, the impossibility of change, that led me to stop paying attention to our current political system:
It may be claimed that men of integrity would not become corrupt in the political grinding mill. Perhaps not; but such men would be absolutely helpless to exert the slightest influence in behalf of labor, as indeed has been shown in numerous instances. The State is the economic master of its servants. Good men, if such there be, would either remain true to their political faith and lose their economic support, or they would cling to their economic master and be utterly unable to do the slightest good. The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue.
There are lots of other nice nuggets in that article, and I look forward to reading more from her, but I’ll leave you with her nice summation of what Anarchism stands for:
Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.