Questioning Authority

The word anarchy comes from the ancient Greek ἀναρχία (anarchia), which combines ἀ (a), “not, without” and ἀρχή (arkhi), “ruler, leader, authority.” Thus, the term refers to a person or society “without rulers” or “without leaders”.

So here goes: I am an anarchist. If you are familiar with the concept, that is probably something you might have already guessed.

I first learned of the concept when I was a teenager. We had been given the task of reading “Animal Farm” by George Orwell and I was intensely intrigued.

Whilst English class focused on the social commentary related to specific types of government, namely communism. I didn’t see it in the same way as we were being encouraged to; that is to be thankful we lived under the rule of democracy.

Communism: a theory or system of social organization in which all property is owned by the community and each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs

Instead I began to find a lot of merit in the idea of communism. If everybody could feel security in having their needs met, it seemed to follow that people would be more able to make intentional choices with their life. Acting from survival is very different than acting from a position of safety.

And in theory it actually isn’t too dissimilar to how our family exists; we pool our resources, we contribute based on ability and we receive based on needs.

But on a larger scale, it niggled at me that I wasn’t sure how any government could be insulated from corruption when the idea of somebody holding power over somebody else felt in itself corrupt.

Government: the group of people with the authority to govern a country or state

I was beginning to shift from trying to find a form of government that aligned with my values to instead questioning the concept of having one at all. Could a government ever truly be acting from shared ideals with myself when I felt so strongly the importance of personal responsibility and agency? And as I took my research to the internet, I found people who were feeling the same.

“No one is more qualified than you are to decide how you live; no one should be able to vote on what you do with your time and your potential unless you invite them to. ” ― Expect Resistance: A Field Manual

Anarchy is a very misunderstood concept. Like respectful parenting and unschooling (which are all related to me personally), it threatens the current structures of society and people invested in them use fear and shame to keep people trapped in the belief that they need dynamics of authority.

If you want power over another, you really need that person to mistrust themselves. You need them to believe that you know better and the easiest path to that is to have them believe they don’t know at all, that they don’t even hold a counter option within them to contest your perspective.

And all through mainstream parenting and schooling, that is the belief that is being nurtured; that there is somebody else who knows better for you than you. By the time you are an adult, you are well conditioned to be detached from your own morality and accept that of external authority.

“No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”
― George Orwell, Animal Farm

When you don’t trust yourself, you certainly don’t trust others who are in the same position as you; siblings when you’re being parented, other students when you’re being schooled and other citizens when you’re being governed.

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
― George Orwell, Animal Farm

But parents, educational professionals and politicians are not a different species. People in authority are no more worthy than you are; they are humans with strengths and flaws, with bias and agendas. They are not immune from corrupted influence.

They are in reality no more fit to decide than anybody else, particularly for somebody else. Perhaps it is even true that those who are drawn to power reveal themselves as least qualified to wield it.

So I considered that if nobody can be trusted, then nobody should be trusted to have power over another.

Or if everybody could be trusted then nobody needs nor deserves power over another.

And I realised it didn’t even really matter which reality is most valid because both meant that control and therefore government is not.

“Behind every unquestionable belief is a system of control.”
― Graeme Rodaughan, A Traitor’s War

And that began the questioning of everything else…


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  1. Yes! I was introduced to my parenting and political ideas by anarchists, and my husband’s anarchist beliefs made these concepts natural for him. I don’t usually see anarchism specifically connected to this parenting stream so this is very exciting.

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