Note that the site is in archived, read-only mode. You can browse and read, but posting is disabled.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

Note that the site is in archived, read-only mode. You can browse and read, but posting is disabled.


+2 votes
I don't want to be pretentious; I don't want to tell others how to think. Still I would like the masses of "anti-establishment" people to realize that the establishment would die if enough of us decided to treat it the way we see it. And, importantly, that people can self-organize without government; not just degenerate into monsters. I don't want to influence anyone. Nobody likes to be influenced. Do you just sit back and watch and hope people wise up? Have you ever helped anyone "become" an anarchist? if so, how?
by (600 points)
i think everyone i meet influences me to some degree. and i think i influence them in some way too. i don't see how i would encounter a person, place, animal, plant, water, air, land...without some sort of effect on me and whatever i interact with.

how do you sense 'chaos?' is it somehow 'bad?' if so, contrasted with what exactly?

I see chaos as confusion and crippling, paranoid fear; helplessness, worthlessness; uncontrollable looting, rioting, rape, violence, destruction... as contrasted with a certain "order" that emerges from mutual respect and a shared sense of fairness and justice.

"chaos" has a certain emotional appeal I know -- a thrill -- but I don't think you would be excited about a total breakdown of, say, language. Like prgkit dsn oip retybvanx jrcqnerp.

"I see chaos as confusion and crippling, paranoid fear; helplessness, worthlessness; uncontrollable looting, rioting, rape, violence, destruction."

oh, so exactly the origins of which every civilized 'order', at least every one i'm aware of, and simply continues to some extent 'at home' and definitely in the great outsourcings called 'empire' and 'war.'

btw, i don't use 'chaos' in this manner nor did the greeks who coined the word.

"but I don't think you would be excited about a total breakdown of, say, language"

languages come and go. however, i do see the abstractions, misplaced-concreteness and imperialistic values at play within 'english' already symptomatic of 'breakdown'.

"Like prgkit dsn oip retybvanx jrcqnerp."

i don't see this particular 'example' as relevant in any way. for one, language seems far more a shared phenomenon than not.

edit for typo

OK, OK. Let me rephrase the question this way: "have you ever helped anyone understand that chaos, meant in a good way, is not bad? (without being pretentious)? and if so, how?"
it really depends on the person i'm engaging really. but a few points have helped on the very rare occasion chaos enters a conversation.

i tend to see and use 'chaos' as an opening, a clearing, for/of potentials/possibilities, neither good nor bad, the latter of which only speak of our values, judgements, worldview, beliefs, etc.

i like to point out that what's often called 'chaotic' can be seen as the residue, the externalities, the consequences of an imposed order. war, famine, climate change, economic failure, ecocide, 'mental illness,' etc.

i tend to point out that no matter how much certainty may be promised in the name of 'order' that the very notion of the latter can only destabilized continuously by the very conditions of life: flux, ephemerality, limits...

the pursuit of 'order' seems far more problematic, since it can only be imposed upon our already chaos-contoured lives. it bespeaks to me of a deep dissatisfaction of 'the real' and an entirely over-rated, narcissistic quest to impose certainty where there can be none.
well said, af.

when i think of "order", i think of the primary job of cops: maintaining order. law is completely a secondary consideration.
I don't view chaos in the negative, but just as everything in general, like chaos is everything, neither bad or good, nothing and everything. I believe the greeks used it to mean a vast emptiness/nothingness, not disorder or confusion or however you're taking it to mean. I could be wrong on how the greeks originally used the term though. I'm not concerned if I come off as pretentious to someone.

Like baa, i feel that everyone or thing I interact with influences me in some form or another, whether directly or indirectly.

I have no idea if I've influenced anyone towards anarchism or not. I don't discuss it that much with people unless they have some interest in it and even then, I wouldn't say I'm trying to convince them of anything. Besides, I dislike socializing. ;) That's my answer/comment
It is very hard to convince someone that believes the state is necessary for a sustainable society that anarchy isn't inevitably chaos(disorder). That is central to the mainstream statist worldview.

3 Answers

+6 votes
i haven't been in a position to convince anyone of anything for a long time, but when i was, i proffered myself as an alternative to the stereotype, and of course there are all kinds of examples of what even normies think of as positives (the 8-hour work day, or some such shit) that anarchists have helped bring about.

but also my arguments (as AF points to) are frequently to question why chaos has such a bad rap in this culture, and to trouble the idea that peace and reliability are such awesome things, at least given the bedrock that we are dealing with.

as much as it might irk me to acknowledge it (given other issues with the project that are not relevant to this question) CrimethInc does a fine job of addressing this topic, i think. their texts tended to celebrate, in a way very friendly to newcomers, a range of behaviors that i would include for anarchists.

i am wondering about your association of pretentiousness and telling other people how to think... but maybe that's just random juxtaposition. at any rate, some of the most carefully un-pretentious people are the ones who are the most controlling. in my experience, anyway.

finally, this whole site is (among other things) an effort to show that people can do things (do things well, do things better, depending of course on what one means by "things" ;) ) without the government and other large institutions.
by (53.1k points)
Dot, can you explain how or why the un-pretentious end up being the most controlling? Does that merely relate back to cultural opposition against chaos, or is there something more within the interpersonal realm resulting from these "carefully un-pretentious people"?
to me people who are worried about being pretentious are assuming some things. a) they're less worried about getting their point across, more trying to manage their image. b) they either have a class background or worry about having a class background that doesn't appeal to the people they're trying to talk to: i.e, "pretentious" = class/education/not "street" (a binary they're operating on, not one i'm trying to promote) and in my experience that mostly happens when enfranchised people are trying to get unenfranchised people to do something (the dynamic of, for example, white people trying to get people of color to join their groups, buy their paper, believe in their cause, etc, or middle class people trying to get working class people to do the same...).
+4 votes

I talk to and engage honestly with people. It sounds trite when I write it, but that is really it. People have a particular image of what an anarchist might be, and while I am, at least initially, a lot like what most folks assume an anarchist in N. America looks like (white, male, etc), I am also above the assumed median age of anarchists in N. America, and I can talk about my beliefs and actions without falling in to hyperbole (maybe it is more honest to say without always falling in to hyperbole). That said, I don't try very hard to make people think anarchy isn't about chaos and window breaking.

Engaging with your question on a deeper level Syrphant, I don't try to dissuade people of the idea that anarchy might mean chaos - it likely will, and that is fine. anarchy (a world without the state, capitalism, and other institutions that have traditionally kept us all somewhat in line through their own use of violence and domination) is likely to be a bit hectic. People will still be raped, murders will occur. I am too honest to believe that language will break down entirely, but it might perhaps become less static. I am fine with all this, and I am entirely honest with people I talk to about that fact that I am fine with all of this.

To the window-breaking piece: if someone finds this website, they are probably already familiar with the trope of the anarchist as a window smasher, so I will make the assumption that I don't need to elaborate on where that came from. Often anarchists from the left side of the big tent worry about how to present our politics as more than angry masked up (young, white, male...) hooligans trashing shit. I feel absolutely no need to dispossess people of the idea that property destruction and violent confrontation are part of anarchist praxis. Attack is a relatively central part of my conception of anarchy, and while I am less and less directly involved in those moments of direct and explosive confrontations the more I age, I have absolutely no desire to construct arguments about the beautiful idea that create a false dichotomy between the building and the destroying. If pressed, I would argue that I personally value the destroying side of the equation more heavily than the building side.

by (22.1k points)
Reading my answer, I want to clarify I am not "okay" with rape and murder, but that I am okay with the idea that anarchy is not a panacea, and that I view anarchisms that view anarchy as such as magical thinking.
+4 votes
I don't think I've ever convinced anyone that anarchists aren't window smashers, and to tell you the truth I like the image a little bit better than "normal, reasonable people.", even though there's no reason why someone can't be both :-). I also don't care what people think of anarchists as a group anyway because some deserve the bad opinions that people have of them.

I have, however, on numerous occasions tried to convince people that police, authorities, and nation states don't actually make the world a better place, and unsuprisingly people often don't need much convincing when it comes to this point alone. When they do, there's not much of a point in arguing with them, because trying to make someone else think a different way starts to defeat the purpose of being an anarchist. I don't want to live my life feeling responsible for other people's thoughts, just the same as I don't want to be responsible for the "greater good" whatever that means.
by (0 points)
reshown by