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Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

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+5 votes
I have seen a lot of anarchists shy away from talking with people they assume aren't anarchists because they're afraid of seeming like missionaries.  Sometimes "outreach" seems like a dirty word, but I feel like it's best for me if there are more anarchists, not fewer, so it is in my best interests to spread anarchist ideas.  What kind of face-to-face, non-creepy "outreach" (for lack of a better word) have you seen work?
by (320 points)
"...but I feel like it's best for me if there are more anarchists, not fewer, so it is in my best interests to spread anarchist ideas."

Why? Anarchists have tried, in vain, to popularize their ideas for what is fast approaching two centuries. You really believe you could do all of your inherited ancestors one better?

Frankly, I find that sentiment extremely selfish and inconsiderate. What would these people gain from being anarchists? A one way ticket to a lonely life replete with an inability to see the value of simple company or conversation because you're too busy scheming how to make everyone you have any semblance of a healthy relationship with think and act like you? Maybe I'm jumping to conclusions; but all I can sense is that you are having troubling discerning between people and tools.

We don't need more anarchists. We need better anarchists. I am very much an anarchist, in my own mind, but I've been educated in such a way that I will likely have a rough and conflicted relationship with most other anarchists (as far as us being politicized peoples is concerned). I will want to go one way, they will want to go the other. This is certain.

Anyways… when the time comes people won't need to be anarchists. In fact, it's probably better that they aren't when the time comes. Anarchy101: humans can display powerful measures of natural ingenuity and resilience without them all looking to the same Idea. Having them all answer to the same set of principles and the silly (and not-so silly) issues of wannabe revolutionaries would get in the way of that, I believe.

But I have also contemplated this question after having recognized I suck at explaining my stronger portion of opinions and such in face-to-face dialogue. Still haven't really found an answer or a resolution. But at least I posed the problem. It would seem you have as well, in your own fashion.
I don't really care if people are self-proclaimed, self-described "Anarchists".  I suppose I mean more--people who are anarchist, who are anti-authoritarian, anti-state, and anti-capitalist, who thirst for real freedom for themselves and others.  It is in my best interests if there are more people like that--the more comrades, the better.  I don't think this is selfish in a bad way, and I don't think that's treating people like tools, though I can understand why it might sound like that.  I think it's practical.
Thank you, enkidu! That comic strikes all too close to home, amongst the anarchist circle. ^_^
More anarchists is better. I completely agree. An anarchist to me is someone who truly cares about and wants there to be freedom and equality for all. The more people like this the better.\
I don't think it's vain at all to think we can do better than our predecessors, it is simply building on their work. I think they would be proud. Few people have the gall to think they alone will bring about the revolution and many would be proud to see it in their lifetime.
This isn't to say people are tools, but just that they wake up from the brain-washing of society and begin to challenge authority.
Being quiet until you are at least 23 and have had time to mull things over.
Would you mind explaining what magickally happens at age 23 the causes a sudden influx of wisdom and non-evangelistic-ness amongst anarchists?
Hey YAll listen up.this really isn't that complicated. Here's the deal, or the problem: anarchism is most cases tends to be viewers through a leftist view. The thing about leftist is that they love tearing down other people because it makes them feel special and that they are better then other people. It all hinges in one being a leftist and conceiving of oneself as having a better analysis then ones peers, or having the BEST analysis of world problems, the geo-political situation. The thing that people find realty refreshing about anarchism is that it isn't dependent on having a better analysis then your peers. The emphasis is on distinguishing the middle ground, tcommon territory. A lot can be done when people think in this mode.
You will die trying to pose better arguments against one another if you remain a leftist.  Personally I think being a leftist is so tired out that it resembles Stalinism, as in everyone must confirm to a common narrative which will underly and further analysis.
Anarchism is the only ethical commitment that leaves room for human experience and isn't narrow or naive enough to think in terms of deter jig people before they exercise their capacity to find liberty with and among one another.

5 Answers

+5 votes
Best answer
There is a difference between talking /with/ someone about your ideas and talking /at/ someone about your ideas. I think that it is important to come at a conversation with the understanding that the other person already has their own ideas about the world. I want to share my ideas with people is a mutual way - I want to hear their ideas on the world as well, to discuss, no worth while conversation in one sided.
And if people are afraid to talk to people for fear of being too "evangelistic" maybe they should rethink how they talk to people, and what they have to say to them. No one likes to hear rhetoric recited at them.  We should be weary of "other"ing non-anarchists. Chances are the people you are talking to really aren't that much different than you. There is no "masses" waiting to be converted to our ideas, no herds of nameless people waiting to be saved from "sin" (read: capitalism, alienation, oppression, etc). The non-anarchist, the "other", are not naive, passive vessels to be filled with your ideas. Just because you share your thoughts with them doesn't mean that they will "get it" and agree with you. So, it usually isn't productive to grill someone, to aggressively explain to someone why not being an anarchist is stupid, and why they are wrong and you are right.
So, to answer your question, put your ideas out there, let them be known, you'd probably be surprised how many people share them. But don't preach, don't condescend, don't try to convince/persuade/manipulate someone into agree with you.
by (5.4k points)
edited by
+4 votes
Informal chatting, listening to what others are discussing and joining the conversation with as much unpreachy honesty as you can muster, even suggesting they read your favorite pamphlet or zine or book can work. It all depends on how respectful you are when you engage with normals. Don't condescend but don't assume they know as much either.
by (570 points)
"Normals?" That's already condescending...
"Normals" refers to people who are not anarchists. The question was quite explicit about "other people"; what else would "other" mean in this context?
I recognize how it's being used and I think it's a condescending term.
Perhaps a corrective suggestion then?
fisher, i think you're getting stuck on semantics, choosing not to trust lawrence's intentions and to read his comment negatively. i wonder why you made that choice?
nothing is inherently bad in the definition of "normal". it could easily be read as an indication of the weirdness of anarchists.
at any rate, language police give me hives.
how about "non-anarchists"?
I don't like that way of dividing people; it's too binary and polarized. Plus "non-anarchist" necessarily includes those people whose ideologies automatically pit them against us. I have no interest in trying to talk to them.
indeed, "non-anarchist" includes everyone that is not an anarchist, including potential allies and potential adversaries. i don't think it at all implies polarization.  "anti-anarchist" would imply that.
+3 votes
I've found that people tend to talk about issues relevant to me (as an anarchist) on almost a daily basis. And, I've found that these conversations - whether it's one-on-one or in a group - can be rather frustrating... especially when it is decisions on things like where to eat or what to do. The frustration isn't because I'm an anarchist though, it stems from finding a lot of the ways people relate to me and others disagreeable and the urge to be "a bummer" or create conflict by passing off a comment about it. So I feel like it often comes down to a call of how seriously to take the things people say. When it's a serious discussion on politics or whatever, I've found my positions make it pretty damn easy to get along since I usually don't have to deal with a lot of presumption and can explain myself to a more open ear. Of course, if I just say "well fuck, blah - I'm an anarchist - grrr" that isn't at all tactful.

When my perspective on things seem to come up the most, it is usually in the context of sympathizing with someone's discontents and discussing them. Maybe I'll mention that I'm an anarchist; but, it's rare and I often find that sticking to the subject is my preferred interaction. I like to think that I'm an anarchist because of what my principals are, rather than my principals being determined by describing myself as an anarchist. This seems fundamental to the question being asked. The label isn't so important talking with friends or acquaintances in a social setting to me. It only becomes important if the conversation is specifically about political ideology or such topics where "anarchist" won't be the only label thrown around. I don't feel the need to ...represent myself as an anarchist in all places and all times: rather, I feel the need to be honest about my perspectives and socialize as much as anyone else (whether they're religious, conservative, punk rock, or whatever). So in a sense, I always feel like it is much more authentic/genuine/real to just express my opinion the same as I would concerning anything unrelated to anarchism.

At the interpersonal level, the goal is to treat people well for me... to treat them how they want to be treated (unless that conflicts with my principals). In short, relating mutually with others and avoiding those who a social manipulators, sexist, homophobic, etc. is more my concern. If I want to really talk about anarchism with someone, it isn't a personal conversation and I talk about it the same as I would talk about quantum physics theories and other abstract stuff. I don't use it as a way to get into arguments or separate myself. If someone is interested in learning about anarchism, I can become a bit excited and blabby but I do the same thing if someone is interested in learning about the social history of art or some other subject I'm passionate about. If there's an action or event or whatever... I'll invite people and if they don't think it's important that's their deal but I won't be shy if they ask why I think it's important.

I don't know - it's all contextual, but overall - 99% of the time I'm not interacting with someone with anarchism in mind. I'm probably more worried about how they've been, what they're doing with their lives, having fun, etc.
by (2.5k points)
+5 votes
when you are communicating to others about anarchist beliefs (or whatever your own beliefs are for that matter) the first goal should be to simply coherently communicate them to the other person so you can have a mutual conversation. of course you can try to be convincing, but if you talk about what you yourself believe and why, instead of talking about what they should believe and why, it is a lot easier. leadership by ideas.

most anarchists are not made, people become anarchists...
by (670 points)
+2 votes
I would advise that you not objectify anarchism into dogmatic principle.  Would you not agree that any train of thought should base itself in some form of reason?
When I read your question, I feel confused.  If you want to communicate what you believe for the sake of being heard, just shout in public.  If you want to seek opportunities to communicate what you believe because you feel that your thoughts carry more righteousness than those of your fellows, then your intentions would seem quite evangelistic to me.
Perhaps inspiring greater critical thinking, not only in others, but in ourselves could lead to a greater sense of unity?  I will give you the benefit of the doubt that, when it comes down to it, you honestly just want solidarity.  I would much sooner see the pursuit of a mutually-subjective reality over any kind of prepackaged, by-the-book reactionary politics.
EDIT:  I imagine that neither my desired end nor my situation matches your own.  So, do we pursue anarchism as an end in itself, or do we implement it in designing our means to appropriately meet an end within a given context?
by (950 points)
edited by