By Claudia Chung, VI Form
First and foremost, I feel the need to clarify the definition and etymology of the word Anarchism. Etymology traces the word back to its Greek roots of an (without) and arkhos (leader, chief). From the two parts, comes the words anarkhia and anarkhos and, eventually, anarchy and anarchism. All the words have one identical meaning: without rulers. It is due to the common misuse of the word in literature and entertainment media that anarchy has now become synonymous with anomie. Anomie, despite also having its roots in Greek, comes from the word anomia and carries the definition of “lawless.” Now that we have differentiated between anarchy and anomie, we can move on to the true meaning of anarchism.
The absence of a ruler is very different from the concept of lawlessness. It seems to me that whenever the word anarchism is used, most people immediately make the mistake of associating it with chaos and violence — and lawlessness in general. Humans are naturally anxious and afraid of the absence of a ruling power, because we think it means a lack of order and enforcement of rules. In reality, however, the absence of a ruler does not necessarily mean chaos, violence, or increased criminal behavior. Although anarchism rejects the idea of a ruler, it does not reject the idea of a leader. While a leader is chosen by the group or individual and is abandoned or renounced at will by the same group or individual, rulers are specific kinds of rulers who as individuals or select groups impose themselves upon non-consenting subjects. In most modern countries, governments are given the power to be the ultimate ruling group. Once you are born into the world, you have signed your life away to the select group of strangers who will have the right to intervene in your education, financial situation, and relationships — basically any stage of your life. Anarchism essentially promotes liberation from this government-monopoly.
However, in order to merit from the ideal form of anarchism, the previous system must be completely abandoned. In the words of Alan Moore, “Anarchy wears two faces, both creator and destroyer.” Thus, the destroyer topples empires, nations, and governments to provide a clean slate on which the creator can build a new world. In the new world, with the absence of a ruling group, the people are freed from unwanted and imposed control. Now, you may be asking “How will that not turn to chaos?” The answer to that, my friend, is the essence of anarchism — Human Nature. Anarchism works by taking into account our most fundamental instincts. As sentient beings, we behave the way we do because it, in someway or another, benefits us. This is also what economists call “rational self-interest.” Working in the soup kitchen makes us feel like we are helping others in need, going on a run makes us feel healthy and fit, and socializing helps us determine whose company we enjoy (and whose company we don’t enjoy). This is also the reason why we are able to avoid unnecessary violence during anarchism’s destruction. When personal interests are at stake, people will eventually organise themselves into a voluntary order. Our rational self-interest outweighs unnecessary violence and destruction, which means that, in our natural state, we will inevitably subject ourselves to some form of voluntary order; thus completing the cycle of destruction and creation of anarchism.
Anarchists would argue that this is the perfect form of anarchism: when spontaneous order is initiated and maintained by the individuals of a society. But nothing is ever perfect, and anarchism is no utopia. Utopias cannot exist in reality, but decentralized forms of law-enforcement and reduced violence can. Anarchism takes the concentrated power and spreads it out: everyone has some power but nobody has very much. Under the modern capitalist state, on the other hand, power is concentrated, and most people have none, really. Which kind of power would you like to go up against? We can have laws without handing away our lives to an imposed ruling group. We can have peace with anarchism. We need anarchism to create a better world for all.
Anarchism is the truest form of order — upheld by human nature. Ordnung muss sein.
Claudia Chung is a VI Former from Hong Kong. She enjoys watching Game of Thrones and is a varsity coxswain for boys’ crew.
Moore, Alan, Introduction. V for Vendetta. New York: DC Comics, 1990. “Authors on Anarchism — an Interview with Alan Moore”.
V for Vendetta: A Graphic Novel by Alan Moore