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‘Chaos’, ‘lawlessness’ and ‘hooliganism’ not ‘anarchy’

‘Chaos’, ‘lawlessness’ and ‘hooliganism’ not ‘anarchy’

  • Freelance journalist says history of anarchism doesn’t get any airtime; no one discusses it as a political ideology

Staff report (Pakistan Today; 07 January 2010)

KARACHI: The term ‘anarchy’ needs to be reclaimed; and people need to stop abusing it by using it as a synonym for ‘chaos’, ‘lawlessness’ and ‘hooliganism’, says freelance journalist Fahad Desmukh who conducted a session on the topic on Thursday at t2f.

“The history of anarchism doesn’t get any airtime; no one discusses it as a political ideology. Instead, the word itself is abused and used almost as an insult,” he said, adding that there was a world of difference between ‘anarchy’ which stems from a proper political system, and ‘unarki’ as it is used by all and sundry today.

‘Archy’ refers to authority – for instance, ‘patriarchy’ means the assumed authority of men. As such, ‘anarchy’ literally means the absence of ‘authority’ in the traditional sense of the word – it is a system without rulers, and where freedom is held sacred. Anarchists question authority where it is imposed or assumed without engaging in mutual agreement with the parties involved – all the way from the state to the workplace. “National identity or citizenship, for instance, is imposed upon you. You’re not given a choice at birth, nor can you, under the present system, opt out of it completely,” Desmukh said. “The state is thus an authority that is imposed – it does not justify itself.”

The absence of a ruler, meanwhile, does not automatically imply that there will be no order, he said, adding that an anarchist society would work through democratic voluntary organisations, where the term ‘voluntary’ is key. Anarchists therefore speak about the democratisation of educational institutions and workplaces, the erosion of state borders, and a society run by community organisations as opposed to politicians and bureaucrats. “People know how to run their lives better than rulers sitting far away in capitals. They can manage things on the ground much better through small voluntary set-ups,” Desmukh maintained.

Also key to anarchism is the concept of social justice, without which complete freedom is impossible, he said, adding that while this might sound utopian, it is not impossible. There are several examples of anarchist societies in history, including Catalonia in Spain; the free territory in Ukraine during the Russian civil war; several instances of worker-peasant communes that anthropologists have researched; and even the modern-day concept of open source software. “It requires an organic change in the mindsets of people, and an internalised moral belief in freedom and social justice,” Desmukh said.

In Pakistan at the moment, the federal government hands some portion of governance over to the provinces ‘as charity’. Anarchism works the other way around: the people decide which portions of governance – the bare minimum level of control – they wish to hand over. “If we talk about one area, and people say that they can’t handle garbage collection individually, they will decide to hand that particular task over consensually to someone appointed by them,” he said. “As such, in the case of Pakistan, provincial autonomy and local governance are issues that anarchists support strongly. As per anarchist ethos, it is not the state’s right to govern.”

The session was followed by a discussion, where some participants spoke about assumed authority as being part of the natural order, and even questioned why the system hadn’t been seen to ‘work’ historically if it were such a perfect idea. When told that many perfect systems hadn’t worked at specific instances in history, while imperfect orders – such as patriarchy – continued to be in place and needed to be removed by force, they maintained that men were ‘inherently stronger’ and patriarchy was thus the ‘natural order’. As such, many in the audience obviously found it extremely difficult to fathom a system where authority was vested with citizens, rather than being imposed upon them.

  1. July 20, 2011 at 07:32

    People should learn the true meaning of anarchy and not use it as an excuse in creating chaos. It is a problem where there is no law or supreme power.

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