“The citizen of Oceania is not allowed to know anything of the tenets of the other two philosophies, but he is taught to execrate them as barbarous outrages upon morality and common sense. Actually, the three philosophies are barely distinguishable.”
– George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 9
I frequently get berated for the “impractical” nature of my faith in society’s ability to exist without government. But the truth of the matter is that government isn’t really a part of my day to day life. I don’t need to do anything that requires government involvement in any way. In truth, the only times I interact with the government in any way is when I pay them for the privilege of getting permission to do something that really has nothing to do with them.
Want to drive a car? Buy road tax, get an MOT, etc. It’s not like I don’t pay a princely sum to keep my car in tip-top nick already, but that does not matter to the faceless bureaucrats who spend my road taxes on everything but roads, and insist that may car ticks a number of boxes before it goes out on the road. The fact that I could drive a car which becomes an MOT failure immediately after certification for 364 days after its MOT, entirely legally, is neither here nor there. The bureaucratic box is ticked.
People will insist on arguing that without government to keep us all safe, heartless businessmen would inflict all kinds of cruelty upon us. And it is true that intentionally or unintentionally, a business could inflict some kind of cruelty upon us, but it happens now, yet we’re paying for a burdensome monster to make all of our lives less pleasant that doesn’t really protect us, it just disguises the cost of these things from us. And government does not protect us from murder or burglary, the best it can do is to identify the miscreant and offer them some kind of punishment. Unless, of course, they just give us a crime number and go back to their doughnuts and coffee.
I also get chastised by people who adhere to one political party or another for having the ludicrous notion that there is no material difference between the three main parties. But the truth is that political parties sit on a continuum of interference and direction of how we should all live our lives. Some call for less invasion and hectoring, some call for more, but crucially, all of them insist that without the wisdom and kindness of government to direct us, we would all revert to some kind of feral madness.
The idea that people will just get along most of the time, like they currently do, without a government, is what makes one an anarchist.
Anarchists, in the true sense of the word, are people who believe, like I do, that people do not need a government to prevent them from behaving like feral animals. (In my opinion, there are two main kinds of anarchists, those who believe in property rights and those that don’t. People who don’t believe in property rights are trying to ignore basic behaviour found in most animals. Animals mark their territory, gather their own (or their own “family’s”) food for winter, etc. The idea that something is “mine” and that it can be stolen from me is pretty fundamental to most forms of multi-cellular life. To try and deny something that fundamental would seem absolutely counter-productive to me.)
But the point is this: most people, when left alone, will rub along together fine. Sure, there will always be personality clashes, but by and large, we all just get along, and if we’re not getting along, we vote with our feet and go elsewhere.
And when I’m talking to someone (I may be alone in this, I realise) I very rarely think: “Shall I kill this person and take all their possessions? Oh, I’d better not, lest the government come after me!”
None of our normal day to day life and social interaction actually requires government intervention. Government does not, ultimately, properly protect us.
Now, having read this far, you may either agree or disagree with me, but I think it’s fair to say that I’ve made a reasonable, coherent argument as to the reasons why I am an anarchist: I don’t see the need to get the government’s permission to do what I want to do, I believe that left to their own devices people will just get along and I don’t believe that government is the wise protector it’s made out to be.
No blood has been spilled, no-one’s offices have been trashed, and hopefully, one or two people are now wondering why exactly it is that they pay so much tax.
So why exactly is it that the police feel the need to single out anarchists as the new jihadi?
What should you do if you discover an anarchist living next door? Dust off your old Sex Pistols albums and hang out a black and red flag to make them feel at home? Invite them round to debate the merits of Peter Kropotkin’s anarchist communism versus the individualist anarchism of Emile Armand? No – the answer, according to an official counter-terrorism notice circulated in London last week, is that you must report them to police immediately.
This was the surprising injunction from the Metropolitan Police issued to businesses and members of the public in Westminster last week. There was no warning about other political groups, but next to an image of the anarchist emblem, the City of Westminster police’s “counter terrorist focus desk” called for anti-anarchist whistle-blowers stating: “Anarchism is a political philosophy which considers the state undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, and instead promotes a stateless society, or anarchy. Any information relating to anarchists should be reported to your local police.”
I can’t help but feel slightly baffled by this. Almost everybody who has met me knows that I am an anarchist. I’m always happy to argue my beliefs and hear counterarguments. I don’t go round destroying monuments or blowing up public buildings. All I do is argue that the state is undesirable (it costs too much and hides the true costs of things going wrong), unnecessary (because we’d all just get on like we do today anyway) and harmful (because of state-sanctioned wars, police shooting innocent people and various other misdeeds). To all intents and purposes, this post means that the Metropolitan Police want to know about me.
This looks like a spectacular own goal by the Met. If a mild-mannered, middle-aged man who has never troubled anyone else in his life needs to be monitored and regarded as a threat to the world, then the Met look like a bunch of idiots. Given the awful publicity they’ve had recently with their own incompetence, I hardly think they need to indulge any more blatant stupidity.
But the fact of the matter is that this chills me. It makes me wonder if some vindictive or deranged policeman might not be tempted to fit me up or start making my life uncomfortable, just because I have perfectly reasonable and peaceful views.
The Metropolitan Police have committed more than their fair share of actual crimes, have harmed far more innocent people than I have and yet they see fit to intimidate anarchists who have not done anything.
Why do they feel the need to do this?