Understanding anarchy

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Anarchy can provide important things to our society

I think that it is very important that I first state that I am not an anarchist. Even so, I find it critical to understand anarchy, as should any citizen of a democratic country. It is not my purpose to tell you what anarchy is but rather why you should find out what it is.

The most obvious reason is that you probably don’t know what it is; as prominent anarchist Emma Goldman pointed out, “both the intelligent man and the ignorant mass judge [anarchy] not from a thorough knowledge of the subject, but either from hearsay or false interpretation.”

Furthermore, anarchy provides an ideology to compare our current ideologies with. Comparison helps with understanding anything, in any subject, especially in the world of politics, so by understanding anarchy, we further our understanding of democracy.

In political science, different governments are frequently compared. The 20th Century’s classic example is democracy and capitalism vs. communism and centrally-planned economies.

Alas, this comparison is no longer as relevant as it once was. Communism is dead, and no longer provides a valuable contrast to capitalism. The void left by communism, however, must be filled with some ideology, as an antithesis is needed to help understand and also to value democracy. Otherwise, democracy will either be misunderstood or will disappear as we know it through lack of conviction.

Democracy is unique as a form of governance because it expects its citizens to be informed and vigilant. Canadians seem more and more to be going in the opposite direction of this expectation. It is possible that the lack of a direct opposite to define democracy against, and define the expectations of democracy in comparison to, is what is leading to the apathetic attitude that Canadians seem to have towards their own democracy.

Furthermore, anarchy provides a better antithesis than communism, not only because of communism’s increasing irrelevance to younger generations, but because of the intense dichotomy between anarchy and democracy. Communism and capitalism have been portrayed as the Alpha and the Omega, yet this is not exactly true for they have some similarities. Both accept government and the state as a necessary element of human endeavour. Anarchy does not agree with democracy on many levels. Therefore, anarchy is very well suited to be used for comparison with democracy because of how vastly different the two ideologies are.

Understanding of anarchy will enhance a citizen’s understanding of democracy, and consequently protect the democratic system in which they participate. With the loss of democracy’s sparring partner, communism, democracy is relatively unchallenged compared to the days of the Cold War. While we tend to view this “victory” of capitalism and democracy, oddly enough, this is not a total advantage. Without a sparring partner to practice on, democracy is just like a boxer getting ready for a fight without a challenge beforehand; defeat will be the outcome. In a democratic political culture, familiarity with anarchism will either make citizens value democracy more, or find new ways to challenge it.

Michael Chmielewski
Contributor

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