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+2 votes
Take my word that I'm asking this question in good faith:

I hear from a lot of people (ranging from green anarchists to nihilists) that the question of "who would work the silicon mines" or whatever is a moot point because it assumes preservation of modern technology. My question is, how can a diabetic be a self-interested anarchist?

As it stands, diabetes is monitored through some fairly complex devices that calculate the milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood in someone's body. Synthetic insulin is manufactured by genetically modifying certain organisms to produce human-compatible insulin; the old method of creating insulin was to extract it from the pancreases of pigs (who were killed beforehand).

Substitute diabetes for any other disability or affliction that requires some fairly specific and complicated forms of care.

I suppose what I'm asking is how some people envision a world that could be simultaneously anarchist and capable of caring for people who require complex medicine - or, whether this is a possibility at all.
by (8.7k points)
Can you help me understand this, how does having a government help with complicated forms of care?

edited to make into a comment.
From my perusing of the questions and responses on this site, I think the OP is referring to the notion that technology wouldn't necessarily exist or continue to exist as it does now.  I believe it's been explicitly stated here that a lot of the modern amenities and technologies that we presently have wouldn't exist in an ancom world.  

In any case, I don't think the question must imply that having a government does help with complicated forms of care.  However, we presently do have complicated forms of care and that care is available only in places where governments exist.  So having a government doesn't prevent complicated forms of care.  

Anyway, I'm interested to see what answers might be offered to the OP.

-im upvoting this question b/c it would be very difficult to treat complex medical problems without intensive resources and technology, sometimes anarchist goals may not work in favor of helping people with diabetes or even higher maintenance diseases (from my understand, diabetes is a pain in the ass but is fairly low maintenance), which is one of the reasons i don't care much for anarchist goals besides making my life less-shitty and more fun.

-While the medical system as is wouldn't be supported by green anarchism/green nihilism, development of technologies, or continuation of them to help ppl in your situation don't necessarily need centralized authority figures and industry. It would of course be tougher to find solutions to these problems without massive destruction of the non-human environment, but here we have one versus the other and i am not enough of an asshole to presume that i can make a value judgment about what should be sacrificed for what.

-i honestly care more about making life less shitty for people more than i do about my grand perspectives about the collective misery of the human race. In fact, i think that human suffering needs to be alleviated in order for the other stuff to be alleviated or fixed. Or, we all will die as a result of our large populations and destruction of the planet, which is honestly fine with me. I don't want humans as a species to live forever.

-Even though i am against the state, you won't find me opposing a universal welfare system, or at least a less oppressive capitalist/state medical system than the one we have in the US. I have thought a lot about the plight of people being dependent on the modern medical system, and i have carpal tunnel and probably the only way im going to be able to fix it is through surgery, which is a real annoying conundrum (it might even get to the point where i would trade it for diabetes lol) so i know how you feel.

3 Answers

+2 votes
Okay, I'll let you in on a little trade secret. By the way, this isn't just for the ATR situation but also if you're somehow stranded in the wild without your insulin shots, here's what you do. If you can't find a pig, you set a trap to catch a non-diabetic human (use sweets as bait!), then simply extract the pancreas (you'll need a knife) and eat it. Works like a charm.
by (20.3k points)
Hi! I'm a diabetic and I would like a better answer than this one.
+2 votes
I admit that this is a primarily a comment, but: one thing I find really unpleasant is how eagerly some people will dismiss difficult or annoying questions because they feel that there's some kind of ideological motivation behind it.

All I want to know is how I can be a self-interested anarchist rather than undertaking a long and difficult struggle toward my own suicide.

I understand that a lot (if not practically all) of people have to die or live in misery in order to keep this civilization alive, but I don't really have an interest in sacrificing myself for the greater good either.

My only real answer to this question is "make an attempt to keep enough technology in existence to support those who require complex medicine" - and I think that's fine, because I'm okay with vague answers. But then I hear some anarchists arguing that there can be no anarchist future that allows for the existence of computers or modern medicine, and suddenly I feel like we're not on the same side at all.
by (8.7k points)
a) there is ideological motivation behind everything.
b) my take on the funny response (or not funny, i guess, depending) is that it's another way to respond to the plethora of the same questions that get asked over and over again in different ways (or not different ways at all).
both the tech question and the medical question have been asked here multiple times.
there is certainly something to be said for those who come to this site and look around before asking their question.

i am not an anti-tech purist (although i have tendencies that way probably), but all medical futures are complicated by the question of whether medical technology/technology in general causes more problems (or the same problems) as it solves. there are arguments on both sides, and it doesn't seem answerable (to me, atm). especially since i don't trust western science to know/communicate what actually causes disease, or best resolves it either...
a) Point, and to rephrase: an ideological motivation that has a hostile or aggressive intent rather than sincere curiosity or concern.

b) That's a fine response, I guess - I agree that it's hard to say for certain whether western science/medicine actually solves more problems than it causes. Then again, the concept of "western medicine" is a broad and sometimes ill-defined category...

And on that note, maybe I should rephrase this question. I'm not necessarily concerned with saving "medicine" as a concept. What I'm concerned with is my ability to access a crucial component of my bodily existence that my body has failed to produce. Without access to insulin, I would have died before the age of 10. Maybe I should re-adjust my perception of the inevitability or necessity of death, but as it stands, I feel like I would rather have insulin than not have it.

I try not to obsess too much about prefiguring an ideal and functional anarchist future that will provide for all of my needs, but sometimes I get stuck on the idea that my ideal form of existence could be immediately suicidal.
Maybe dot could also build a FAQ to help tone down repeat questions.
hpw: i like the conversational tone of the threads that have responded to these questions, so i wouldn't want to truncate those. but a page of links to the responses to FAQ might work.
(except that people don't even look at the "about us", so i'm not sure how helpful it would be to the folks who need it most.)
but yes. probably worth a shot.
just noting, RB et al, that the question originally was posted by anonymous, which means that responses are going to be more skeptical, for sure.

and for what it's worth, my best case scenario usually involves me not surviving the transition to a better world, much less the "better world" itself. (and that's my best case 'cause it means there is a transition.)

just sayin'. ;)
..or maybe a little prompt/note/reminder to search when someone hits 'Ask A Question'...
it would be nice if the software allowed for that kind of thing - or even just making a question sticky...
dot, I poked around on the Q2A site and found some plugins for you.

Here's one for adding content to the Ask page: https://github.com/svivian/q2a-widget-anywhere

and here's one for stickying questions with the ability to modify the CSS for the stickied question: https://github.com/NoahY/q2a-featured
"My only real answer to this question is "make an attempt to keep enough technology in existence to support those who require complex medicine" "

that has the potential to be a massively slippery slope. who determines when the need for "complex medicine" is legitimate? what about those who claim to want that technology for medicine, but actually use it for...  you get the point.

and perhaps most important: how/where is this "complex medicine" being created? by whom? with what resources? and what infrastructure?

enter politics...
>>who determines when the need for "complex medicine" is legitimate?

Me, when I say that I need insulin to continue being alive.

>>what about those who claim to want that technology for medicine, but actually use it for...

An unfortunately necessary chance to take, the way I see it! And also probably applicable to a range of other tools/technologies?

>>how/where is this "complex medicine" being created? by whom? with what resources? and what infrastructure?

Like I said, whatever is necessary.

I'm going to be honest and say that I'm 100% willing to risk tolerating theoretically- or potentially- destructive structures if it means I won't be forced into a very early death.
good personal answers.

i guess a bigger question, since you did frame this in the context of an anarchist "society", would be:  would you choose to perpetuate and maintain the mass industrial society necessary for the creation and maintenance of the complex technology that you deem necessary for your individual longevity? your last paragraph implies "yes". and i appreciate that you are so clear on that.

this is not just theoretical for me, either. my long time best friend and lover is dealing with some (very likely) life-threatening medical conditions that have recently worsened, and as anarchists with strong anti-civ tendencies we try to look pretty deeply at these kinds of issues. although our discussions are more around how to deal with our situation in the current world that we live in, rather than some theoretical anarchist "society".

for me it tends to boil down to what it means to "stay alive". i personally hate this world enough that i have no problem envisioning my life ending at any time, preferably at my own hand. but at the same time, when i am in my element (which is largely - but not entirely - away from other humans), i LOVE life. i just don't have any attachment to growing old (although to you, i probably already am :-). and, i must admit, i have had no serious health issues in almost 54 years of living (and not always the healthiest living). so needless to say my own perspective could change if i do become unhealthy, or otherwise dependent on a system outside of my control and desire (eg, the medical/industrial complex).

just to be clear, i have NO judgement whatever about those who would do whatever is necessary to prolong their lives, if that is what they desire. up until the point, of course, where what they do impacts my life in ways i don't want. and that is where you and i could end up in an antagonistic situation, given the perspective you have articulated.
This is something I think about a lot - I don't think death is necessarily the worst thing that can happen to someone. From personal experience with suicide, I'm willing to admit that I'm not attached to life as some kind of fundamentally good and necessary thing that needs to be preserved at all costs.

But at the same time, I've found reasons to be alive, and I feel that creating anarchy (or striving toward doing so, in whatever way) is something that brings me some kind of joy and meaning.

So for me, personally, it doesn't make much sense to strive to create something that makes my life worthwhile yet simultaneously means suicide. I don't begrudge other anarchists doing what they feel is necessary to create the world they want to live in, but I do feel like this is necessarily going to become a point of antagonism.

I don't really like to fuck with statistics in conversations like this, but since this is kind of a personal statistic: the low estimate of type 1 diabetes cases worldwide is approximately 10 million people. It could be 20 million or more. Destroying any possibility of acquiring insulin (synthetically or via domesticated animals) would mean, without exception, the deaths of at least 10 million currently-existing people. And then there's the question of every other form of physical illness that would be fatal without some form of medicine.

Without bringing any kind of moral argument into this, I would imagine, at the very least, that a significant number of those people would probably go to great lengths to fight anything that might endanger their ability to survive. This seems like it might be a problem for anarchists who oppose technology and medicine in their entirety. (Not that infeasibility is necessarily a reason to give up on something.)

I guess I'm just trying to sort out what kinds of anarchists I can even theoretically work with, and that list seems to be getting smaller and smaller.
Hi Rice Boy,

I don't exactly know how complex the process is by which insulin is created today, or what other ways are possible to create it or to monitor blood/glucose levels.

It seems to me the main ingredient necessary is the willingness of people to search for alternatives, as well as entirely different ways of conceiving of the "problem" and "solution". Also, that there are others who care about you and wish to help in the creative process, even though they themselves are not afflicted with diabetes. That determination and collective effort may not ultimately keep you or anyone else alive in an anarchic society, but it is an effort worth undertaking in my view.

Theoretically, I am quite certain I am the kind of anarchist you can work with (as long as work doesn't mean a job). :)
Well, today, insulin is created via genetically modified e. coli bacteria which are grown in labs and secrete synthetic insulin. I think some people are experimenting with getting a certain variety of plant to secrete insulin.

The old method was extracting insulin from the pancreases of pigs. Prior to that, type 1 diabetes was an immediately fatal disease.

Since type 1 diabetics entirely lack insulin in their bodies, there's not really any alternative besides getting insulin from somewhere else - or, possibly, a pancreas transplant, although I think those tend to go very poorly and there's a high risk of infection assuming your body doesn't just reject the new organ outright.

And that's the thing! I'd like to explore how it might be possible to have an anarchic life and society without it meaning my immediate death, but it seems like some people (not referring to anyone here, specifically!) have taken it as a foregone conclusion that all modern tech and medicine need to be done away with, and I don't get the impression that there's any room for compromise there.

But anyway I appreciate what you're saying! I really hope there is actually a way to integrate my desire for anarchy with my ability to experience it.
Your last line sums up my hopes as well.

At this moment, I don't think all modern medicine and tech needs to be done away with. Or at least, if it does, it surely wouldn't disappear overnight any more than automobiles, cell phones, or this internet connection we're now using. Many things could likely still be salvaged, scrapped together, repaired, etc., as mass production began to cease.

Synthetic insulin is obviously not something that falls into those categories (use, res-use, cobble together, repair), but the idea that it is here today, gone tomorrow, is unlikely in my view. I realize that my answer is more philosophical than practical, but to me one of the beautiful aspects of anarchy is the notion that there are possibilities for everything currently unimagined in the hierarchical, money-based, separated society. I wish I could see more clearly the path from here to there, but I try to keep in mind it is not a linear one, and that seems to help a little. I've found that believing in anarchy and working toward living it is fraught with contradictions and conflict, and this particular situation you've described is similar in that regard. I suppose those of us who have chosen this view are drawn to and appreciate that conflict in some way, as difficult as it may be.

My wife was a pharmacist in our previous life, so perhaps she has some more tangible ideas than me on the specifics of diabetes...I'll talk to her and respond again later.
rb: i completely get your dilemma, and i think it is awesome that you are grappling with it.  

although i definitely have a critique of technology (including around how the problems it seeks to solve are almost always problems born of it), it is an unavoidable part of our world, until it is not. i have no problem using whatever is available to suit my needs, and i'd expect no less of anyone else. if civilization came crumbling down tomorrow (which would make me leap for joy), there is no question i would use whatever i could from its detritus (is that the correct use of that word?) for as long as i could. and i would be looking very hard at what alternatives i could come up with for when those things were no longer available.

it sucks that what you need to stay alive currently requires systems and processes that you and others see as oppressive. it is an extreme example of the particular kinds of conflict and contradiction made inevitable (even within ourselves) by the modern world.

"I guess I'm just trying to sort out what kinds of anarchists I can even theoretically work with, and that list seems to be getting smaller and smaller."

i hope you don't exclude too many folks too soon. keep in mind that anarchists who disagree on one or more issues often work together. i would think that trust and common objectives on any given project would trump overarching ideological purity. or have i misunderstood? for me, what creates anarchy is how people relate to one another. there is always going to be disagreement and conflict, and those are great opportunities to practice relating anarchically.
R.B. - ten million is one hell of a big syndicate.
And though we (probably) wouldn't replicate the genetic engineering, it should be trivial to bribe a wage-slave to 'liberate' an existing culture and propagate it in a safe place.  And (though i'm not talking to your specifics) i'm continually amazed at how simple and 'low-tech' most industrial processes are to those who work with them everyday, but seem shrouded in mystery to we ignorant masses - culture, filter, pasteurize ... um, were you making beer or smallpox vaccine?

[As an aside, the UofA in Edmonton was working on eyelet transplants, rather than whole pancreas, initial results were promising but that was a few years ago...]
cb: good points! the perception of "specialists" and what they do is often shaped by the very premise of specialization, which is intended to make things seem inaccessible to the "average" person. but the reality can be quite different.

rb: i would add to my previous comment that a huge number of humans alive today (of which there are far too many, imo) could not survive without industrial technology, for everything from clean water to food provisioning to medical treatments etc. you and your fellow diabetics are barely the tip of the iceberg. that is the reality of the world we live in; and it is that same world that created those dependencies, which is one big reason i want it GONE.
–1 vote
You would be HIGHLY motivated to watch what you eat and are more likely not never get diabetes in the first place. The current surge is all chronic diseases is strongly correlated with Western capitalist ideology, consumption, and life set up.

If your question is what if this happened right now, your options may be limited and would come back down to watch what you eat.
by (220 points)
Rice Boy mentioned above that they have type 1 diabetes, which is genetic and not dependent on what they eat. Telling them to watch what they eat doesn't solve their issue and applies to people with type 2 diabetes. So, while type 2 diabetes is preventable, the type of diabetes (type 1) Rice Boy has is not.
My bad. I missed the Type 1 diabetes. I apologize.


A rapid change in incidence within a genetically stable population implies that nongenetic factors are active and that the influence of genes is relative to population, time, and place. It suggests that something has changed in the environment our children encounter or in the way they are reared.

Not to say this is definitive. Possibly these children died in early infancy before anybody could detect symptoms and describe the disease. But something to think about and look into for people with Type 1 diabetes.

They wrote it in the comments. I've read that the environment also plays some sort of part into diabetes type 1. I wonder if the reasons for the rise type 1 diabetes is more because people now have easier access to doctors and better tests to see, while in the past, they did not. I'm no scientist, so I'm not gonna ponder this for long. I'm not the one that down voted you.