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What do anarchists think about death?

+2 votes
asked May 8, 2012 by anok (19,040 points)
It's inevitable as a part of life? Can you say more, anok? I am prettysure that is too simple to warrant answer status, but also feel unsure how to respond beyond that.
I asked it in a very vague and general way, because I want to leave it open.

But to give a bit more direction... How might an anarchist attitude toward death differ from the social norm?

Is that enough?

2 Answers

+2 votes
I don't know if I can give a specifically "anarchist" answer to this, as it is all bound up with being godless, hating civilization, and generally being alienated.

My attitude is that death is something that comes to all of us, whether anarchist or not, whether in our armchairs or in the street. It is part of the cycle of life, necessary for other life to occur. As an anarchist and someone who is critical of civilization, I think that our culture (to be specific: Western industrial capitalist culture) glorifies life to the detriment of death. I look forward to feeding lots of other things in death. If it is possible, I'd like for my loved ones to do as Ed Abbey's did: Abscond with the body, either leaving me somewhere, or burying me shallowly, without all the hoopla, sterility, and toxicity that a legal burial or cremation requires and begs. Preferably I would be left somewhere with trees who have moss that hangs low and ferns that grow almost as tall as I am (I'm kinda short, so that isn't asking that much). But all that is beyond the question at hand, and beyond my control, I'll be dead, it won't matter to me, nor will I be able to somehow guide others actions from beyond the grave.

As much as I do not want to artificially extend my life (or prevent my rapid decay), I also think that sometimes death is treated by anarchists in a somewhat flip manner. I like being alive. I like feeling, experiencing, being. If I didn't, on some level, I would be dead now by my own hand. Often I feel hopeless and unable to change the things that I hate, but I find those feeling authentic and valuable. I have no desire to quicken my death, and I will do all I can to avoid death, as most living beings will, but a knowledge that death will ultimately come, combined with a hopelessness also means I (hopefully) act in ways that further my experience of living.

In short (and because I can't resist the opportunity):

"Death is permanent, irreducible."
answered May 10, 2012 by ingrate (22,160 points)
edited May 10, 2012 by ingrate
You might like this poem I wrote:

Earthen Return

Lay my bones 'neath rock and root
Where songbirds call, and owls hoot
Where river meets the ancient trees
Where children dance in leaf-strewn breeze
Between the meadow and the oaks
And in the hearts of kindred folks

Lay my bones 'neath rain and ash
Where tree and lake and hillside clash
Into the caverns, woods and seas
Where dwell the feral refugees

Lay my bones 'neath dirt and brush
And when I finally pass on, hush

Let me fade
Fade all the way
Back into the wild
Ingrate, you're a good anarchist. I appreciate your participation here.
madlib, thanks for that. I feel like I am a better anarchist here than when the boots hit the street, as it were. We are all full of contradictions, and I probably come across far more consistent via the mediation of the internet, though I hope not. One of my personal pet peeves is playing the holier than thou game, though I also love to get in to a good round or two of it if I am not paying attention.

I actually feel a question bubbling up in this comment... with luck it actually forms.
ALC- love it. And I actually hate poetry for the most part, but love this. Fucking anarchists teaching me to like poetry. Shit.
Autumn Leaf, I love your poem :)
there's so many ways to go about this, so maybe an idea of what life and anarchy are should come first, then death....

The i feel it, anarchy is the belief that all people are created equal and that freedom is the basis of our oh so humanly condition. But we can't be more free than the society that we exist in is. for example, no one can have the freedom to go into space if the society doesn't have spaceflight, and no one's being a pilot if their society doesn't have planes, etc etc.
So to me the belief behind anarchy is the idea that freedom is the only point to life, and we can only be as free as our society is, so then the moral imperative becomes that we should each do everything we can (work) to expand the possibilities of a society.
SO that's what the meaning of our existence is: to further the possibilities of our neighbors and communities.

so about death... We're each put here to help our neighbors, and when we die we can no longer do that. this is why i think suicide is a sin, because we're all so tethered together, that if you destroy yourself, you do a disservice to your neighbors because you can no longer extend your possibilities to them. Personally i like to believe in reincarnation because it gives an extra incentive towards being a good person: if you do right by others and use your time wisely, you come back as a more enlightened (free) being (perhaps this is why human intelligence and population are rising so rapidly?).

Other than reincarnation, I figure two other things could happen when we die:
1) we transcend this 'world' and go into a higher dimension (heaven?) where we can walk across timelines like walking across a valley, and in that way we would omnipotent and omniscient.
2) the universe is part chaos, part order (undisputed). if it were only one or the other, freedom would be impossible. chaos and order are synonymous to mind and body, we need both to be free. when we die the body and mind separate and we are no longer free, and since being free is the point of life, we're now for all intents and purposes, totally dead and lifeless.    

Hope this helps! in some sort of way haha. it might've just given you more questions than answers, but hell, that's more fun!
+1 vote
May I quote Epicurus, because his words still define what I think about death, and it seems very compatible to an anarchist perspective.

It's in his "Letter to Menoeceus" :

"Accustom yourself to believing that death is nothing to us, for good and evil imply the capacity for sensation, and death is the privation of all sentience; therefore a correct understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not by adding to life a limitless time, but by taking away the yearning after immortality. For life has no terrors for him who has thoroughly understood that there are no terrors for him in ceasing to live. Foolish, therefore, is the man who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect. Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present, causes only a groundless pain in the expectation. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead, for with the living it is not and the dead exist no longer."

Other intersting thoughts about desires, life and death ;-)  : http://www.epicurus.net/en/menoeceus.html
answered Mar 9, 2015 by okapy (2,120 points)
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