Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ask An Anarchist, Part 3

(image courtesy HolloPhotographics.Com)

[Editor's Note: Recently (dis)pencer, the subject of this "Ask An Anarchist" series, filled in as "guest columnist" for Smithers during a Smithers Family vacation over at SmithersMPLS. In his introductory post, (dis)pencer identified himself as an anarchist. And, just like that, you have the makings of our "Ask An Anarchist" series.

The "Ask An Anarchist" series is for entertainment only. It represents the thoughts and ideas of two amateur philosophers, so don't take it for anything more than that. If you should cite this for any academic research project, you'll get what you deserve.

Without further ado, enjoy.]

Click here for "Ask An Anarchist, Part 1"
Click here for "Ask An Anarchist, Part 2"

Tuffy's Question #3:
In your answer to Question 2, you responded that for anarchism to work, the existing mentality of the citizenry must be changed or altered before the political, economic, and cultural power structures can be properly dismantled. As well, you noted that this change in mentality (and, thus, the change to anarchy) won't work if the citizenry truly supports such things as corruption, nepotism, discrimination, violence, wars, and similar institutions.

Therefore, would changing our current free-market, "democratic" society into one of anarchy truly solve anything? Do governmental systems -- or the lack thereof -- make any difference? Or, instead, are we really talking about the core issues of the human condition?

What I am asking is this: Instead of the root problem being our current "power structure", isn't the root problem the illogical, unreasonable, harmful, and mutually detrimental beliefs and behaviors carried out in our society?

And, if we could alter these "ill" beliefs and behaviors, society would function to serve all of its citizenry more completely, regardless of the organization of that society's power structures?

(dis)pencer's Answer #3:
There have been entire books written about these questions, but I can try to sum it up.

To start, where do you think these issues (corruption, etc.) come from? Seriously.
Think about it for a second.
Does society just come with all these "ills"?
Or, were they ingrained, or taught as the norm?

I personally believe that everyone has a right to a decent home, clothing, enough food, and respect.
Me and Capitalism disagree on those points.

Now, Capitalism and the Goverment are intertwined, but they are not the same thing. Government is Capitalisms bitch.
So, do governmental systems -- or the lack thereof -- make any difference?
Yes and no.

They make a difference to the 2 million people in prison in the US. There are plenty of people in prison for petty crimes, drug shit, that don't need prison so much as they need an option.
Capitalism does not time for giving people an option.
Government should, but it is not a priority under Capitalism.
Government is failing.
And the murderers, and rapists in prison, those that are "susposed" to be there. What did society do for them? American values are Money, Pussy, and Power. If you arn't getting one or more of those things then you are a failure.

Can you blame people for cracking under the pressures? No.
Did they make the right choices? No.
Did the Government serve it's purpose to create and host a healthy and safe society? No.
What is the result? Throw them in prison.
Why? Because the Prison Industrial Complex is a booming market. There is money to be made building prisons, running prisons, from prison labor...
Again, Government is failing.

In New Orleans, Government failed. First to protect, then to aid to that were "affected" by Hurricane Katrina.

Our Goverment fails at almost everything it does. Because our Government works for Capitalism. It does not work for the people, and that isn't going to change.

You asked if the root problem is the power dynamic. I don't think there is one "root" problem that is the one part of our society/government/country that we could just change.
The entire system feeds itself.
From classism, to War, to corporate interest, to racism, to globalization, and so on.

Band-Aids will not solve the problems we are facing.


Blogger AdamB said...

It sounds like Spencer's saying that social institutions have power to shape "mindsets". That is, not only are the markets and government created by people, but they also create people. "American values" are as much a products of the system as vice versa.

So it would make sense that people would think and act differently under a different social structure. For example, one of the main benefits of market capitalism is that it does not presuppose trust between market participants. Transactions are designed to be anonymous and standardized.

The question I think we're getting at is, What effect does this have on individuals mindsets? On culture and society? Would you get to know people better if you had to barter with them? Does keeping a strict account of debits and credits with your bank statement affect how we split up bills at restaurants, perhaps?

For example, the Burning Man festival uses a "gift economy" in which participants are prohibited from selling, trading, or bartering. You can only give stuff away. Supposedly this system helps foster a culture that furthers the artistic community at the festival. I'd like to try it sometime and see how it works.

The other side to that is the idea that human nature is not so much culturally defined as it is genetically destined. This view tends to hold that capitalism (or socialism, for some) is the inevitable natural outcome of certain facts of the human condition. And so if you try to impose some other system, it will ultimately fail and the "natural" system will take over. The persistence of black markets is usually pointed to for the capitalist version of this idea.

It seems to me that the truth is somewhere between the two. There are obviously feedback loops between social definitions and biological reality. Gender norms probably do have some basis in genetic predispositions, for example. But I guess the trick is to identify where the stable equilibria are and to make a deliberate effort to move away from equilibria that are painful and destructive towards more beneficial systems and outcomes.

For example, a lot of biologists have this view of population growth that indicates that population size tops out at "carrying capacity", where the environment of the population can no longer support additional organisms. The other part of that is that life at carrying capacity is pretty miserable--Bangladesh would be an example of life at carrying capacity.

But I'm suggesting that certain social norms can be instituted to change the way people think about family planning and procreation. India, for example, has undergone tremendous cultural change in the way they think about condoms.

So between social systems and the natural human condition I would interpose our collective free will. Through careful reflection and civic engagement we can change from certain social outcomes to other ones. Modern capitalism may be one of the most stable, self-reinforcing social systems in history, and may destroy the planet before it fails. But I'm suggesting perhaps it's possible to shift to other stable systems.

I just don't know how change is effected deliberately, or how to identify stable social equilibria.

Tue Aug 08, 09:24:00 AM 2006

Blogger StevenCX said...

Sounds like a big Catch-22: 'for anarchism to work, the existing mentality of the citizenry must be changed or altered before the political, economic, and cultural power structures can be properly dismantled', but he argues that this mentality is largely a result of the capitalist/government system. Swept under the rug is the fact that we created this system and, IMO, we (humans) would create it all over again if the current system suddenly disappeared.
__Adam's example with Burning Man is interesting though. It shows a system within the system in which like-minded individuals can create their own way of life. I don't know if (dis)pencer thinks anarchy is actually possible (I think it's like communism - an unreachable ideal to strive for), but there are countless examples of microcosms that can achieve various aspects of the anarchist ideal.

Wed Aug 09, 06:36:00 AM 2006


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home