While researching an article about the Black Panthers not too long ago, I came across their splendid and still powerful ten points and added them as a footnote to the story. For today’s show I found this. In 1851, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, the first man ever to call himself an anarchist, gave us the powerful explanation I quote below. Not only strong passionate stuff, but altogether too modern and familiar. Interestingly, he’s also putting his finger on the exact thing that people on the left and right most fear about each other taking control of government. Pestilential invasive incompetent and uncomprehending interference. So very 21st century!
“To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be place[d] under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonoured. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.”
I was also thinking about making some points about “Going nuclear” (to the most extreme position available within your range of argument), being the immature egotistical and impractical opposite of advancing responsible freely negotiated compromises between all legitimately interested (and no fundamentally corrupting) parties. But I’m pretty sure I covered that stuff by bank-shot implication, and I’m trying to keep these programs from running on. Just figured I should mention it, in case you wondered – why didn’t he think of…?
Sisyphus, for those who haven’t got into it lately, is the greek guy (prince of Corinth) who got into trouble for telling some of Zeus’ secrets, and was condemned to push a boulder up a mountain every single day, only to have the thing roll all the way down again, every time it got close to the top.
Like so many enduring stories from ancient times, it’s rather dramatic – but the intensity with which he represents a quality of endless futility we still recognize all too well in modern times is striking. There are some minority but still ancient sources who also think he was the father of Odysseus (rather then Laertes, as most texts assert), and may even have sired him after smooth-talking his way out of hades. Wild! But then, you know what greek mythology is like, right? Let no god-dude go unpunished.
The Spanish Civil war is another subject I come back to repeatedly – there are so many lessons we still haven’t learned, and questions we still haven’t adequately answered. For those who haven’t read about it – it was a chance for the western democracies to oppose fascism while it was still weak, in favour of democracy itself. But the party which had been elected was leftist, and the powerful in the west were in sympathy with the fascists, who flew-in an exiled rebel general and then lead a coup against the democratically elected socialists. Many frightening horrors of the second world war happened first in Spain – and the fact that the western powers did not officially intervene to protect democracy from fascism was positively inspirational to Hitler.
The weird thing is that in the midst of the chaos of war, an incredibly idealistic project was tried. Managers with fascist sympathies had been driven out from a large region, and the workers took over city services, organization of factories and distribution and soon had the entire structure of modern life set up on a voluntary basis. Workers voting with other workers on how their work should be.
Strangest and most perishable of examples, perhaps – but then, this is not an experiment easily tried!