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how would an anarchist society support the elderly, the poor, orphans, the sick etc

0 votes
asked Oct 21, 2015 by anonymous
retagged Oct 26, 2015
"...as we stood on the rooftop looking out over the city, eating our shoplifted organic kale salad and drinking our juice from the juice dumpster, we realized age is merely a construct to hold us back. We vowed to never grow old, and that, in as much as we were the rulers of our destinies, we were not poor - even though we were broke - we were aristocracy of a secret world that exists in the shadows and the alleys of the real world, that our dreams were the only thing that mattered, and that we were never going back..."

or so I heard in 2001 on more than one occasion.

4 Answers

+2 votes
If you go back to the basic characteristics of anarchism, they are autonomy, mutual aid, direct action. This is how you will take care of YOUR elderly, YOUR sick, or YOUR relatives orphan. I'd like to ask you how many total care dependents are you willing to take on? How many sick people can you personally take care of?

The current therapeutic state bred disability and dependence in unheard proportions. Any anarchist structure either will not have so many dependents because of a different group life or simply because they will perish long before they swell to the numbers of dependents who have to deal with today.
answered Oct 4, 2016 by Medical_Nemesis (220 points)
I love how you put those basic characteristics: autonomy, mutual aid, direct action.  It is probably best we don't try too hard to foresee what those things would lead to if unshackled. I think we can trust that they will lead to something unexpected but at least as satisfying as the current set-up. I'm quite confident that we don't need government or religion to make us take care of each other.
Downvoted due to the "or simply because they will perish long before they swell to the numbers of dependents who have to deal with today" which is totally unempathetic. No society that I wish to live in can have that kind of basis. How old are you?
I think it's a given that an anarchist society would not be able to reproduce the type of medicine that mass society and capitalism has produced today that keeps people alive (artificially or not), or even want to. I find your questioning of Medial_Nemesis age bizarre. Writing something that appears unempathetic to you doesn't mean the person is young and a no-nothing, as you're implying. People have different ranges on how empathetic they are or aren't. I'm personally lacking in that area and glad because if I was more empathetic, I'd've likely killed myself long ago.
+2 votes

My comment from last year still stands as a sort of critique of the lack of caring about such questions that sometimes comes with North American anarchist milieus being largely youth-centric. It also was a snide response based on there being no further elaboration beyond the tags.

Medical_Nemesis touches a bit on my actual perspective on this. Here is more...

I imagine that in many truly anarchist societies, issues of being orphaned would, while not wanting to diminish from the grief of losing both parents that someone might experience, be mediated by both the experience being much more common, and the potential that familial structures would be less likely to be nuclear. Parents might die, but aunties and uncles and grandparents would play the roles they already had of helping to parent.

Similarly, I hope (as I move past 40) that an anarchist future would have less priority based on an individual's potential productive value, meaning that elders might be respected for their perspectives and wisdom. Also, without industrial capitalist medicine, likely we would all be living much shorter lives. That's fine, right? Same goes for those with illnesses and disabilities. To be clear, this is not implying a lack of caring for folks (though it also doesn't imply any moral necessity to do so...), it just recognizes that some things are artificially extending all our lives because capitalism creates a vampiric desire to live forever at whatever cost. Staunch individualists might argue for the purity of that desire uber alles. I personally think the adjective vampiric is accurate to describe the prolonging of life in capitalist relations - it is a sort of undead existence.

As to the poor, poverty is an entirely relative category. One might argue we would all be rich, or one might argue that we all would be much more poor. Or we might all just be without a concept that we were somehow lacking in the sense that "poor" implies.


answered Oct 16, 2016 by ingrate (21,070 points)

" I personally think the adjective vampiric is accurate to describe the prolonging of life in capitalist relations - it is a sort of undead existence."

well fucking said!

0 votes
An answer probably has to address means as well as mechanisms. If we retain a significant degree of association and cooperation in the production of goods and services, then perhaps the first part of the answer is fairly straightforward. "Property is theft" and capitalism is systematically exploitative because workers are typically compensated at best for the equivalent of their individual labor, while everything attributable to the fact of their cooperation is typically appropriated by capitalists and/or by the government. That means that we've generally been getting by on just a portion (and often quite a small portion) of the wealth we have had a hand in creating. So there is presumably a quantity of wealth created by us that has gone to uses unconnected with our needs, some of which we can draw on to sustain those who cannot contribute to their own upkeep.

Of course, once we have rejected the capitalistic yardstick for measuring contribution, most of us will look a lot more productive than we do now, since the measure of our productivity will not be the profits made for someone else. We'll find a variety of ways to rethink distribution, according to local needs and preferences, but it seems inevitably that virtually all of them will involve breaking down the distinctions between productive and reproductive labor, between labor and education, etc. And with those distinctions will go the institutions that go with them. If care is no longer considered fundamentally different from production, in part because we've discarded the gendered division of labor at the heart of the family, it will simply have a different significance to be an orphan or to be in need of care.
answered Oct 17, 2016 by humanispherian (430 points)
+1 vote

I think this is a great question when you consider the points of view of anarchists that oppose civilization and institutions: currently we depend on large social structures to take care of people who may not be able to take care of themselves, for example, the elderly, orphans, and sick. If I were to ask your question, I would remove “the poor”, because poverty is a social condition, and poor people can sometimes take better care of themselves than people who aren't because they are forced to endure greater amounts of stress and obedience than those who are better off and can pay for labor and help from other people.

The ultimate problem with the medical system and other institutions that help those in need is the fact that they are impersonal entities and address certain symptomatic problems, while ignoring everything else. For all the miraculous things the medical system can do for people, it often pays little attention to how modern medicine, surgery, medical technology, and the bureaucratic and slavish jobs/positions effects the quality of life for all human and non-human beings. From having a lot of experience with the medical system at this point, I see a correlation between the ways of thinking in medical science to the ways of thinking in the “pro-life”, anti-abortion movements. “Life is a joyous gift even if it is miserable...” I am not saying that the medical system doesn't have its good qualities and improves the life of many, but to me it's unfortunate that “life” is hallowed out in the sense that people can't see that a miserable life isn't worth living.

Let me give you another example of why our social system only appears to take care of the weak and disabled: consider how life is for elderly people in a social system such as ours. As has been pointed out before, they aren't seen as very “useful” to people earning an income with a job, and when they lose their ability to take care of themselves, they end up in assisted living and nursing facilities and the state takes possession of their house. Having personal experience with this, they end up just being ignored by their families when they are committed, because their basic needs are being taken care of and the point of view usually is “that's all that matters”. But how would you feel if you couldn't get around by yourself, go the bathroom by yourself, feed yourself, do any of the activities you did when you were younger, and then be ignored by your kin while the people who made you what you are are long dead? You are left with a pretty empty existence if you can't start new relationships with the people in the facility: often the only thing people in their old age care about is having social interaction, and more often than not they end up being completely alienated and are stuck with their own minds and a television set.

There are people who have in a crass manner talked about the good of “population reduction” (often very wealthy people) and anti-civ people who have callously talked about how they don't give a shit what the negative consequences of societal collapse are because the greater good of the destruction of civilization is what's important, and this is unfortunately what people imagine when we start talking about when we say society is rotten to the core, it's all hopeless, ect. It's also true that reverting to less technological solutions to the problems of life can also cause more environmental destruction if applied to the massive human population (im thinking in this specific instance, how grid-tied fossil fuels are environmentally destructive, but if people on a mass scale just started burning fires again in really cold seasons/climates then that would be even worse because of all the noxious gasses that would be emitted from the process), also how the current social structures are needed to manage nuclear waste, ect. This is all very troubling and this is why my primary goal in life isn't to just oppose civilization or try to tell people to reject technology ect. I just wish that people would be more willing to criticize and reject the behaviors that people just take for granted, like police violence, familial repression, environmental destruction, work, capital, ect. I certainly cannot blame people for wanting to use social institutions to their advantage because I do and have done the same.

In the end, it's impossible for any individual to take on the burden of having to care for "the weak", you can only really care for yourself and those around you.

answered Oct 19, 2016 by Nihilist (-590 points)