Mention the words Anarchism or Anarchist to most people and the image that immediately springs to mind is that of a rioting youth, a lone wolf, wearing heavy boots, a hooded jacket and an anarchist t-shirt resplendent with the letter A in a circle….and a petrol bomb in hand ready to throw either at Police or through a shop window. To support anarchy – to be an anarchist you must be a Yob…the dregs of society right? AND to be honest with you, that’s what I initially thought too.
Look up Anarchism on the all knowing Wikipedia and it tells you this:-
Anarchism is an anti-authoritarian political philosophy that advocates self-managed, self-governed societies based on voluntary, cooperative institutions and the rejection of hierarchies those societies view as unjust. These institutions are often described as stateless societies, although several authors have defined them more specifically as distinct institutions based on non-hierarchical or free associations. Anarchism holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary and harmful. Anarchism does not offer a fixed body of doctrine from a single particular worldview, many anarchist types and traditions exist and varieties of anarchy diverge widely. Anarchist schools of thought can differ fundamentally, supporting anything from extreme individualism to complete collectivism.
I’m not sure about you, but to me that sounds very reasonable…..ideal even. You may have been surprised to see the words – self governed societies and voluntary cooperative institutions – because for a society or institution to exist it follows that there would be rules and regulations surely, and that would be against what Anarchists want, wouldn’t it? The answer is – Anarchists operate on principles or ideals rather than rules and regulations, they are very much against RULERS. (The etymological origin of anarchism derives from ancient Greek word anarkhia. Anarkhia meant “without a ruler”). What they want is TRUE EQUALITY.
Personal autonomy and human rights are highly connected and cannot exist without one another. This reflects not only the equality of all individuals but also their autonomy, their right to have and pursue interests and goals different from those of the state and its rulers. Naturally as far as Anarchism is concerned there would be no rulers or state. Just true equality and personal and/or group autonomy….just as our ancestors would have had back when they were gathered into loose groups of hunter gatherers – equality with common aim.
Throughout history anarchists have been very much un-Yob-like. Lets take a look at a few of them. Respected thinkers, writers, intellectuals and even a few celebrities have followed the anarchist path. Take Plato for instance.
Or how about Charlie Chaplin?
Or…Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, usually referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy, the Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. His books War and Peace and Anna Karenina are still lauded as classics of literature and yet…..another anarchist thinker.
To come finally right up to date with one of today’s great thinkers, writer, intellectual, political commentator and critic….Noam Chomsky. Chomsky believes anarchism is a direct descendant of liberalism, perfecting the ideals of personal liberty. Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, social critic, and political activist. Sometimes called “the father of modern linguistics”, Chomsky is also a major figure in analytic philosophy and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. Professor emeritus of Linguistics at MIT…doesn’t seem like the preconceived idea of an anarchist does he?
So….is anarchy a bad thing? Your comments, opinions etc are most welcome.
Bad things sometimes happen to good people completely unexpectedly….out of the blue. This was clearly referenced recently in Christchurch, New Zealand with the Mosque shootings – resulting in fifty Muslim worshippers being cut down by a lone white supremacist gunman. Although the shooting of people from one religious group by a member of another group is nothing new these days (sadly), it is something new for New Zealand. Many people had a dazed look on their face and uttered the same words “How could this happen here?” However, with terrorism reaching almost every corner of the world, it was only a matter of time before we in New Zealand became part of the equation.
Christchurch has had a fairly bad run of things over the last 10 years, having suffered two large earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. The 2010 quake registered 7.1 on the Richter Scale but other than a few minor injuries, no one was killed. It was a different story in 2011, when buildings already weakened by the 2010 quake succumbed to the shaking produced by a smaller 6.2 quake, killing 185 people and injuring many more.
Then in 2016, just 180 kilometres north of Christchurch, the coastal town of Kaikura experienced a huge 7.8 quake which shook down buildings, caused land slips severing road connections with the outside world and left Kaikura residents to their own devices for several days. In spite of the size of the quake, only 2 people died and several others were injured. The main highway north out of Kaikura took 2 years to reconstruct. The quake also caused damage to several buildings in our countries Capital – Wellington – approximately 200 kilometres to the north – across Cooks Strait on the north island of New Zealand.
Last year we had serious floods on the north island, leaving communities cut off for a couple of weeks until floodwaters subsided and this year the south island was hit by flooding, with bridges being washed away by raging rivers, again cutting transport and power and, in some cases, water supplies to several communities.
All of these incidents and others have demonstrated that when it comes to large scale disasters, particularly wide ranging natural disasters like storm damage and/or earthquakes, the government of the day can not protect us. Often the damage caused by the natural event is such that it prevents rescuers or aid from getting through and the victims are left to fend for themselves to a greater or lesser degree. Obviously some folks are better equipped and better prepared to cope through a natural disaster than others. Its all about assessing the facts and taking appropriate action to mitigate the potential for disaster. People who choose to live along a fault line, or in tornado alley or in a high drought area etc and choose to do nothing to prepare to survive an earthquake, a tornado or a drought are fools. They are even bigger fools if they genuinely believe that the government are going to come riding over the horizon and save them.
With Climate Change tipped to bring us more extreme weather in the future, these weather phenomena are more likely to become the norm rather than the extreme. Add to this mix the general political unrest in the world today – continuing unrest in the middle east, Trump in the Whitehouse and “Little Rocket Man” in North Korea, Russia and China flexing their military muscles….not to mention the turmoil in Britain and Europe caused by Brexit…and it’s not unusual to react by dispairingly, throwing ones arms in the air, and saying saying there’s nothing we can do about it. BUT, there are some things that we can prepare for and by being prepared for them, they become a less frightening proposition.
Obviously there is a lot of information on the internet on what to do in emergencies of various kinds, but what if the emergency situation takes out the power grid and you lose the internet as an information resource? That’s why I have several books either on my office bookshelves, or ready for a quick get away in my caravan/trailer, that give advice and guidance no matter what the emergency. There have been a flood of “Prepper Books” come out as a result of the National Geographic TV Series “Doomsday Preppers” which started filming in 2011….followed by 2 shows on the same theme filmed in the UK called Doomsday Preppers UK. Some of these books are absolute garbage and are written by people who have no “Prepper” experience who have jumped on the bandwagon to make a quick buck. There are some that I can recommend though that were written years before the Doomsday Prepper series was even conceived.
One printed in 1987 by Reader’s Digest simply called “What to do in an emergency”, offers useful tips and information on what to do in a multitude of emergency situations, from simple things such as treating bites and stings, to stopping bleeding, dealing with burns and broken bones, through to solving electrical problems, preparing for a coming storm, dealing with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It also gives advice on forest fires, emergencies at sea and even what to do in the event of your plane being hijacked. Being a Reader’s Digest book, it’s written in plain, simple language, has helpful illustrations, and is easy to follow. The important thing though is not to just have books like this sitting on your shelf to be referenced after an emergency happens. Read them well first, make notes or if you don’t mind your books being damaged, use a highlighter to clearly mark the most important parts for quick reference when the time comes.
Another very useful book is Ted Wright’s 1993 book “Complete Disaster Survival Manual”. In this book you receive some of the same information as the previously mentioned Reader’s Digest book, but he delves more into preparing in a group situation, either at work or in the home/community and has come up with several useful lists of “must have” equipment for dealing with said emergency situations. He also points out some myths/facts about various situations. Some are comforting but others are quite disturbing when he points out how ill prepared the authorities actually are for many emergency situations that could arise. For example having little or no food/water stored for emergencies, or siting an emergency control centre in the basement of an earthquake prone building on land that would be submerged in the event of a tsunami…..as is the situation in the town close to where I live.
A good standby that most Preppers either have on their bookshelves or in their “Go-Bags” is John ‘Lofty’ Wiseman’s “SAS Survival Handbook” – subtitled “how to survive in the wild, in any climate, on land or at sea”. It’s a mine of very useful information written by a man with years of military survival know-how under his belt. Everything from setting up camp in the wilds, finding your way by the stars, first aid, natural medicines you can find in the woods and fields (with diagrams to help identify plants), edible plants, poisonous plants, hunting, fishing and trapping, how to cope in extreme conditions such as deserts or mountains – all this and more is in this book…..as I said a mine of information. He also talks about building your own disaster “pocket survival kit” and what to do in a variety of natural disasters.
Although the above mentioned books all have sections about health and first aid, it’s important to have a book (or two) specifically on the subject of first aid and keeping healthy. My “Go-To” book is the St Johns “First Aid handbook”. It gets updated every few years, but my copy is from the 1970’s (not the one pictured) and used to belong to my father.
There are a lot of useful books out there that can help us to be like good boy scouts and “be prepared” for all eventualities and those are just a few of what’s available.
Just going back to the “Doomsday Preppers” series. Much of what’s shown on TV is very much over the top as far as these Preppers are concerned. They seem to think that an underground bunker, a dozen high powered semi-automatic weapons with thousands of bullets plus a years supply of freeze dried food will protect them and their families from all hazards. Not only do you have to be very wealthy to have this sort of emergency preparation, I couldn’t imagine being confined in a smallish space underground with my immediate family and probably my in-laws as well, for an extended period of time – we’re talking months in some cases!
My preference is community based prepping and being able to build your own shelter and live off the land….which is why we already grow most of our fruit and vegetable needs (we save seeds for the following years crops) and preserve any extra produce so we can eat it after its season ends (it also provides us with a useful emergency supply store of food), we have a bee hive, harvest rainwater from the roofs as a means of watering our gardens (or in dire emergency as a drinking water supply). With this in mind I also have books on subjects such as gardening/pruning/organics and permaculture, wild edibles, natural medicines and home remedies, preserving (dehydrating/freezing/salting/bottling or canning), natural building methods (straw bale/earth building), making your own electricity and general self sufficiency.
I have been a home gardener since I was a child, helping my father in his veggie garden. I’ve been interested in prepping and being prepared for disasters for a somewhat shorter time, taking a more serious interest about 7 or 8 years ago. There is a lot of information about “Prepping” and “Preppers” on line – some of it is very helpful and can be taken at face value, where as other information needs to be taken with a pinch of salt….in some cases a very LARGE pinch of salt. I would encourage anyone interested to check out any of the on-line forums about Prepping – common sense will soon tell you which are the useful ones and which are run by purely gun-toting rednecks. For New Zealanders interested in finding out more about Prepping, try prepnz.proboards.com or message me for more info.
We face interesting times ahead here in NZ. As a response to the Christchurch shootings, our Prime Minister is pushing through new gun ownership laws which is hardly surprising. What concerns me though is where this change will lead. This is not America. We have no 2nd amendment. At the moment, because our security status here is high, after the shootings, police are currently carrying weapons, once it drops back to “normal levels” they will once again have access to weapons in lock boxes in patrol cars, but won’t be carrying a Glock on their hips. There is talk once more of permanently arming our police force regardless of security level….while at the same time disarming the general population. In the UK they have gone a step or two further by now making restrictions on knives – the type and the blade size that it’s citizens can own. Like I said, interesting times ahead.
Your feedback/comments are appreciated on anything mentioned in this post.
Forgive me father…it’s been 2 weeks since my last Blog post. The Chaos of Christmas and New Year are finally behind me and I can get back to some serious….and some not so serious blogging.
I’ve been reading a book called “Armageddon in Retrospect” by Kurt Vonnegut and it’s got me thinking about things. What sort of things? Well civilisation for one thing. Looking up the meaning of civilisation (I’m using the English spelling rather than the American) – I’m told it means the following:-
the stage of human social and cultural development and organization that is considered most advanced. Or the process by which a society or place reaches an advanced stage of social and cultural development and organization. OR the society, culture, and way of life of a particular area.
And of course is derived from the word Civil – meaning courteous and polite.
I’d like you to really think about those definitions and consider if it applies to how we treat our fellow human beings and how we are as a society today.
We in the western nations consider ourselves to be civilised and have in the past, and some would even today, claim that we are more civilised than the communists of Russia or China and certainly more civilised than those who ran Nazi Germany before and during WW2. By the way these days the word Nazi is taken to refer to those who express extreme racist or authoritarian views or behaviour. But are we actually any better? Have we learned anything during those 74 years since the end of WW2 to today? Are we a more civilised society…..can we even claim to be civilised at all in view of the various definitions above? Judging by the number of wars and armed conflicts that the western nations have been involved in in the last 74 years, I don’t think that we can.
Let’s take the USA for example – I don’t like to pick on one country when many are guilty, but the USA is a prime example of what is wrong with the world today. The USA was built around immigration. It’s not known as the “Alien nation” for nothing. The early settlers had a chance to live peacefully with the first nation peoples, but as more outsiders arrived land was taken by force and the original American people were pushed on to reservations and even today are still struggling to be heard by the all conquering uncle Sam. Now we have President Trump in charge (who going by the earlier definition of Nazi …… you finish the sentence, you know where I’m going with this…..) – who’s pledged to make America great by stopping immigrants (particularly Mexicans) from entering the country and kicking out all illegals. He knows that this doesn’t make any sense because it’s the illegals, doing all the low paid jobs, that white Americans don’t want or can’t be bothered to do, that keep the country running. Currently he’s not paying “unnecessary” government employees – this includes the likes of air traffic controllers – who among many others are hardly unnecessary (think about those pissed off air traffic controllers next time you fly somewhere in Air Force One Mr President) – and his actions are putting many families to the wall. There’s a standoff between the 2 major parties who’s leaders are trying to prove who can piss the farthest up the wall – the one that Trump wants to build presumably. BUT meantime, while others suffer and are expected to work unpaid, those making the decisions in Congress and the White House are still being paid. The powers that be are simply looking after number one and sod the rest of you. This is hardly civilised behaviour.
But I’m not here to bash Trump and his rich political buddies – there are plenty in line before me to do that. The USA still has the death penalty (is that civilised?) – does it work? No it doesn’t – how many of those executed by lethal drug injections last thoughts were “Well I guess that will teach me a lesson?” Probably none. Has the threat of the death penalty stopped people committing crimes that will mean that they will get the death penalty? Does a mugger worry about death row when he shoves a gun in your ribs, is prepared to pull the trigger, and demands your wallet? Nope. Is it civilised for one human to kill another by hiding behind “the law” to administer a lethal injection? Is it civilised to spend a trillion dollars on arms and armaments and go blowing up and destroying thousands of people in foreign lands each year just because they are the “wrong colour” or follow the “wrong god”? A civilised society would insist on that money being spent on things like health, education and welfare for its own people, who are in desperate need – instead of on war. But America, like the majority of western nations, is a capitalist country and will always put big business and profit for shareholders over the needs and well being of its own citizens. These are not signs of a civilised country. The USA still tortures prisoners of war and “suspected” terrorists – something banned by the Geneva Convention but being the strongest military might in the world, rules don’t apply to them. No proof of terrorism is needed, just suspicion. It’s a very slippery slope folks. Kind of reminiscent of the days of witch hunts and witch trials – suspicion of being a witch brought you the death penalty. Have we made any progress since the Salem witch trials? Don’t we know any better……really?
They – the USA – are backed up by the members of Nato and the United Nations. Surely all who support the acts of criminals are themselves as guilty as those committing the acts. Warfare is not something that civilised peoples subscribe to.
We as citizens of these countries, we who vote in the idiots who make the big decisions, could be deemed equally guilty of being uncivilised. But what can we do to stop the insanity? Sign a petition? Take to the streets and protest like “we the people” have done in the past – marching against war, marching for peace, marching for equality of race, gender or sexual orientation? I’ve done it all. Sometimes we make small gains, but mostly it’s like throwing custard pies at an advancing enemy armed with tanks…..(to paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut when referencing the futility of protest marches against the Vietnam War). Peaceful protest seldom works, violent protest as with the Yellow Vests recently in Paris also doesn’t work. Hey we’re pissed off with the government – let’s burn some poor schmuck’s car or trash their shop – oh yeah that’ll work! The entire system as it stands doesn’t work.
As capitalists, as fully signed up members of the consumer economy, we endorse unlimited growth and to hell with the environment, to hell with the planet. We allow the corporate’s to lay waste to the planet, to destroy habitats of other species simply to provide more stuff for us greedy humans and to make money for company shareholders. Our support of this system is definitely not civilised.
But we also claim to be the most intelligent species here on earth – how can that possibly be true? We are the only species on the planet capable of wiping out of existence not only ourselves, but every other living thing on planet earth, thanks to our “superior intelligence” – and we’re the only species stupid enough to allow the people in charge to put us all in this position in the first place. The system is broken, it doesn’t work and we need a new plan.
Getting back to Vonnegut’s book – Armageddon in Retrospect.
It’s a book made up of selected essays/short stories all centred around war. Some of the stories are based on his own personal experience as an American soldier – prisoner of war in Germany. One of the stories concerns the bombing of Dresden toward the end of WW2. Although many other major German cities had been bombed by the US and British throughout the war, Dresden was not considered to be a target because it had no military, industrial or strategic purpose – did not manufacture steel or armaments. It was a city of universities, churches, hospitals, theatres, museums, libraries, the arts and beautiful architecture. It had become a haven for the weak and displaced. BUT someone high up in the US military decided that the rail-yards at Dresden needed to be bombed. It should be pointed out at this time that every able bodied male aged between his mid teens and late 40’s had already been conscripted into the German army and were fighting on the various “fronts”. The city of Dresden was populated by the very old, the very young, the infirm and women. In bombing the rail yards, what actually happened was that the entire city was flattened. Up to 200,000 ordinary people were murdered by the bombers during that time. And if the massive loss of life is not enough, so much history, art and heritage was also lost for ever. The rail yards however were repaired and up and running again in two days. Two days! Was it worth it? Was it the civilised thing to do?
Vonnegut and his fellow prisoners of war had the gruesome task of pulling the bodies of those dead children, wives, mothers and grandmothers out of the twisted wreckage of what had been the beautiful city of Dresden. This very much turned him against war and warfare. War should at best be an absolute last resort when everything else has been tried to keep the peace – not the first consideration, nor should it be a way to settle a political argument, or to simply prove who is strongest, or as a means to take what “we” want from other, weaker nations. The murder of innocents and the destruction of beautiful things is not what a civilised society condones.
Like I said earlier I am not bashing America in particular – just using it as an example, as did Vonnegut in his book. I know many Americans – even have some as family – and they are wonderful, warm, kind people…..but the decisions of those leading them….!! NOR am I bashing the military or those who serve or have served. Many of my own family have served in the military including my father, uncles, cousin and grandfathers. They were fighting for what they considered to be a just cause. It’s not usually the military who bring one country into armed conflict with another – they just have to go where they are told and do what they are told to do – it’s usually politics and political leaders who are at fault…..and those who provide finance to the political parties. Big business runs politics by financing political campaigns and therefore buy and own the politicians. It shouldn’t be allowed. As I said before, the system is broken and does not work – certainly not for the average Joe. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen. The system is rigged that way.
I don’t have the answers. I don’t know what the silver bullet is. But we could start by being kinder to one another. We can start by trying to reconnect with our neighbours, our community. We could start by simply smiling and giving a friendly greeting to a stranger. Welcome people instead of shooing them away. Offer the hand of friendship instead of holding up the fist of fury. We could bring back things like trust, integrity, understanding and peace. We could, and should, be civil and civilised. But do we want to be?