“You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”
– Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
There’s a lot of talk these days about “anarchists” doing this or that. There must be a lot of talk about it, because it has filtered down to me through my relatively media-trance-free life, via social media, conversations with people, etc. I haven’t sat and watched a news broadcast in years, and I wouldn’t dream of ruining a perfectly good run by tuning in. So, “anarchists.” I put that words in quotes because I’m fairly certain that almost everyone using it doesn’t have the faintest clue what it actually means. My understanding, based on use and context, is that people think an “anarchist” is someone who wants to destroy everything, create disorder and chaos, is violent, is angry, and hate all the established powers of truth, justice, and the american way.
Even a cursory reading of any actual anarchist philosophy would put all of that to bed. I’m going to give a brief summary of my understanding of anarchism, such as it is, talk a bit about my background with the philosophy, then explain why I’m not an anarchist. First off, I would recommend that anyone who wants to understand the basic principles of anarchism to get on someone else’s internet and search for “Anarchy 101” by Bob Black. It’s straight-forward, easy to read and understand, there’s no bullshit academic lingo or arcane intellectual concepts. I would challenge any reasonable person to find anything in it they actually disagree with.
Let’s look at the word first: anarchism. Three parts to the word:
“an,” which means “without”
“arch” which means “rule,” as in “monarch, patriarch, matriarch, etc.”
“ism” which is a system of thought, philosophy, etc.
Anarchism is a philosophy of freedom from rule and governance by an authoritative power, such as a king, government, or “state.” Modern humans have lived on the earth for about 300,000 years; states, governments, and kings have existed for less than 10,000 years. Human society prior to that—and in many regions, all the way up until the last 100-200 years—was self-organized and self-ruled. Groups of people linked by land and kinship made collective decisions. Social power was spread out amongst groups within the group, different clans, orders, etc. There was no “king,” and “chiefs” did not have absolute rule or absolute authority. There was no such thing. This is the circle/cypher model. In a way, you could say that humans as a species are inherently “anarchistic.”
Nobody knows what happened that led us to agriculture and then to civilization. A lot of folks have a lot of theories, some of which are patently ridiculous and even insulting, but nobody actually knows. We probably never will. Depending on what story you believe, some 10,000 years ago, one of several possibilities took place. Perhaps the social structures and traditions which maintain diffuse power failed in some way, and individuals began accumulating power, leading to the pyramid era. Perhaps some kind of psychic alien invader colonized human consciousness with machine codes. Perhaps it was “natural evolution.”
There are things anarchists are for, and things they’re against. They’re generally for: social equity, environmental respect and sustainability, self-organization, self-rule, communal sharing of resources including land, diffusion of social power, freedom from coercion, and free association with other people and organizations. I summarize all those points with one word: autonomy. Freedom. Anarchists are generally against: governments, social inequities based on race, gender, etc., coercive power, land “ownership,” concentrated power, and the exploitation of land and living beings. Perfectly reasonable.
Anarchism is considered the far “left” of the political spectrum, which is ironic when you consider, once again, that the majority of modern human existence qualifies as anarchistic. However, in this country, there really is no organized “left.” What’s considered “left wing” in the U.S. is really just a minor chord variation on what’s considered “right wing.” Democrats & Republicans, liberals & conservatives, are all statists. They believe in “the state,” i.e. government and corporate power, industrial manufacturing, the rule of law, state violence (police, military, etc.), and they believe in the fundamental goodness of institutions that maintain economic, racial, and gender-based oppression. Anarchists are anti-statists. From the point of view of anarchism, “liberals & conservatives” are really just arguing over the details; they believe in the pyramid—some would like the edges softer, some want them harder.
Some backstory: I discovered anarchist philosophy in the early 2000’s, and began reading it with a gusto. It filled in a lot of blanks in my political understanding; I always sensed that the game was rigged, but anarchist philosophy helped to show me how it was rigged, and how there were so many assumptions built into my way of thinking and in the institutions around me that I had never noticed or questioned. Once I began questioning them, a lot of things fell into place. Unfortunately, this also came with the knowledge that things were way fucking worse than I thought. For awhile, I even identified myself as an anarchist, although I was never too serious about it; after all, I wasn’t participating in any organizing or political work. I never liked other humans enough to team up with them to do serious shit like that. I just hated Babylon and didn’t want to be a part of it, psychologically or emotionally. I wanted a way out of the matrix. Anarchist philosophy helped me find it, at least on a personal level; once I no longer accepted The Lie, I was free to define my life and my success on my own terms.
To paraphrase the black mystic and kabbalist A.A. Rashid, you can’t use the philosophy of the oppressor to achieve liberation. Anarchism, like Marxism, Socialism, Communism, Feminism, and Capitalism, are products (I use that word purposely) of western european industrial thought. Most of these “isms” are just arguing about who controls the factories; they never question whether or not we should have them. They’re also products of western european “scientific rationalism,” which is a materialist philosophy that regards the world as full of “resources” to be “used.” The earth is nothing but dead matter to the children of Descartes. To the mechanized, rationalist mind, religion and anything having to do with spirituality, ancestors, spirits, and the living earth are nothing but ignorant, primitive superstitions. Most of the prominent early anarchist philosophers were atheists. And most of them were just as racist and sexist as any other european “white” man. They believed in the fundamental superiority of european culture, they believed in “progress,” they believed in “industry,” they believed in the subjugation of “animals,” women, and the earth.
On those notes, I don’t fuxwit them.
I know the trees and the ancestors live because I can talk with them. I know the magic is real because I’ve seen it work. I know the earth is alive. These are not issues of “faith” or “belief” for me, they are experientially real, as they are for many other people I know who are connected to these forces. I don’t want to self-rule the factories; I want them gone. I don’t want power-over, I want relationships. I don’t want cold science, rationalism, and machines; I want flowers and clean water, bumblebees and old-growth trees, free children and honored prey. I pray to the circle, not the pyramid.
Back in 2011 I did an album, The Temple of DZA. It’s about destroying psychological attachment to oppressive institutions—turning the pyramid upside-down and entering the circle. “The Temple of DZA” is a cult-religion consisting of one person—me—based on a syncretic blending of indigenous religion, heretical islam and christianity, taoism, buddhism, five-percenter philosophy, and “spiritual anarchism.” “The Temple of DZA” is also my physical body; I am the temple of D(ivine) Z(knowledge-wisdom-understanding) A(god).
I have a song on the album called Supreme Anarch. Here are the lyrics:
(clip from Ghostbusters: “Are you a god?”)
(clip from Raekwon’s song Wu-Gambinos: “I call my brother Sun, cuz he shine like one”)
I am Supreme
I don’t believe in equality
I believe in expansion of me to you, you to me
“Anarch,” without rule
by dudes, schools, or rules
I simply refuse to obey
My authority come from an inner source
You see this freedom be mine by divine right
yours too, cuz you is me
come together work it out satisfactorily
We can and have been, we are
And might be the la-la-la-la-last humans, so dance
embrace, laugh and cry
I was getting freaky is my alibi
when accused of confusion
and mixing up spirit and flesh
a tantra-rifical mess
Set the table, tell a fable
and pull ’em all in,
a civilized lie, just a blip in the line of my history
fist hittin the drum
I’m a god in the sun
No use in hollerin “run”
You can’t escape the desire to break out of the matrix
it come written in the D.N.A.
The ones who don’t fit in is the most resistant
wish ’em luck, and pray they don’t self-destruct
I seen ’em do it with gadgets and booze
I seen ’em do it with babies and abusive dudes
Seen ’em do it with sex and technology
They forget how to receive the call
not to mention the response, we forgot a lot
Then hip-hop came and evened the odds
Only a machine could create the projects
I reject this death-cult prisoner livin that has been given
instead I got indigenous religion–
resistance begin in the mind
Evolve alternative beyond dominance and submission:
a sub-zero mission,
cold as the vaccuum of meaning in major media
Cut ’em to pieces with the sword of D.Z.A.
Roll a bleezy up, fuck it I’m free
You see the badge?
You see the mask?
Got no room for police in my mind-steez
you can take your jackboot back to
the stygian pit
Along wit ya criminals,
pimps, hoes, bitches,
and other fantasy wishes of infected vision
I’m the cure and I’m sick
hip trippin I’m hop
flippin I’m not givin a shit about
any motherfucking matrix god
I comes from the Bay,
red pill’s what I pop, huh
pick up the slack, react
I crash fantastic
and my landing ain’t bad neither
I’m a true believer in being a free human
and some would say that I’m a fool
But I’m a fool with the keys to the gates beyond
and I’m inviting you to come and play along
I am Supreme
(clip from Ghostbusters: “Wait for the sign, then all prisoners will be released.”)