"The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds." ~ Isaiah Berlin
Outreach to Non-Anarchists: A Suggestion
Column by Dylan Delikta.
Exclusive to STR
A multitude of events have occurred these past few weeks; Hurricane Sandy, the presidential election, the multiple calls for secession, and Israel attacking Gaza. The masses are in a political frenzy and are calling their representatives! A wet dream upon all your politicians, bureaucrats, and apologists, I say!
Of course, all of this will fade away because the majority of Americans just cannot either keep their attention to radical ideals or give up and let the political population take care of it. It’s almost disheartening that this is the case with the majority of the masses because their sense of liberty, justice, and equality cannot make it past an episode of “American Idol.” Plus, their televisions spew propaganda to no end, and the talking heads won’t even bother to mention that Occupy Sandy has done more help than FEMA and the Red Cross, or that Israel is causing violence with Gaza, not the other way around.
Don’t throw in the towel just let! Sure, there are going to be many that will not even bother to engage in radical ideas and movements, but all is not lost. In fact, if the action is quick, there just may be a chance for liberty to win over a few minds and to start up organizations, co-ops, and partnerships to compete with and bypass the state. In fact, I believe that there is even something to learn from in terms of how and who to engage when trying to spread the ideas of anarchism.
The first thing to grasp is that a good number of people will not be interested in any idea at all, and that is not entirely a bad thing. I say this for two reasons. For one, I heartily accept Thoreau’s lesson on the business of living in that nobody needs to seek the State out if by grace or ignorance he or she is able live with or without it unconsciously. While it may be true that they should morally defend themselves when the State comes to collect a tax, say, to pay for the State’s wars, some people comply not so much because they support the wars, but because if they do not pay the tax, they will be thrown in prison and have their property confiscated. Many people just want to live their lives and keep things simple, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that sentiment. We need not be like past revolutionaries who conscripted neutrals to their cause backed by threats; just live and let live.
My other reason is that not everybody needs to know everything that anarchism entails, but if you build it, they will come. People tend to align themselves with actions rather than ideas, so simply stating “taxation is theft” will go over their heads, unless along with those statements there are groups that can show why living without taxation is morally and efficiently better than dealing with the State. Even with that, some people will still not understand why taxation is theft, but will at least understand that the groups made to sidestep the State benefits them more than what is currently provided to them. I am not proposing that anarchists give up on theoretical research, logic, and deductive reasoning that provide the backbone of the philosophy, but to be about it rather than just talk about it.
So what about those who are rooted in the political storms of today and rally under for the D’s or R’s? I believe the best way to handle these activists is to aim for the “radicals” in those groups and focus less on centrals, or in other words, “strategic argumentation.” As much as anarchists like to debate statists, there is no sense debating a central because the central doesn't believe in principles, but rather acts in reaction and expediency. “Radicals” at least work in principle, even if they are not consistent or have not opened up their blinders all the way, and that gives the anarchist an advantage in debate. This is not to say that nobody should try to not debate with a centralist on his or her views, but arguing the morality or effectiveness of a stateless society with someone whose views are based more on reaction and less on reason is an uphill battle that can be better fought with more theory-based action to show for it, and should be put off for the most part. One must choose his battles wisely, and choosing to come back to centralists later when there is more work to show for it will yield more success (and spare many nights of headaches).
If these suggestions sound defeatist, it is not intentional. I am not trying to argue away taking a stand for what is right and just, but arguing for an effective way to gain supporters in the fight for liberty. It is crucial that anarchists take action, practice strategic argumentation, and use understanding to promote a stateless society to the majority who are ignorant of these ideas instead of just laying out theoretical groundwork and (mostly) pointless Internet debates. Theory sets the stage and writes the play, but action is what determines how well the audience responds to the performance, and that is where our priorities must lie.