Anarchism in the US

A couple recent Facebook interactions have me thinking more intently about my most recent e-book, “Spiritual Anarchism: An Introduction.”

To my surprise, I’ve found more evidence than expected of people with a nuanced view of theology and spirituality following anarchist pages. On the other hand, I’ve seen that the political philosophy of anarchism still suffers from skewed public perception that probably amounts to a branding problem.

Namely, people assume that the philosophy of anarchism can only be applied in the absence of government, or that the state it hopes to achieve (anarchy) has no meaning until the end-game of abolition of the Big Bad State is achieved. No other political philosophy I know of seems to be evaluated solely by the abstract hypotheticals of its end results, as though there is no validity or practical value in its path to get there. Even libertarians are given the space to work incrementally toward a smaller, less intrusive government.      

I believe that a person could run for president on an Anarchist platform, without self-contradiction or the promise to abolish the office if elected. As “Spiritual Anarchism” states:

The common thread through all aspects of anarchism is a bottom-up approach to empowering the individual to live by self-control…The emphasis must be on creating empowered individuals and communities who can then choose to see state control as unnecessary, redundant, and in many cases even an oppressive force contrary to true power.

“Political anarchism could also be called ‘external’ or ‘extroverted.’ It consists of direct action that works to further the core anarchist principle in the outer world — protection and empowerment of marginalized people; the fight for economic justice and leveling and for the freedom to build community-based alternatives to top-down authority structures; the breaking down of all barriers to self-expression and freethought; just to name a few of the many.”  

These are all incremental steps which an anarchist government can directly encourage and nurture, often just by getting out of the way and removing the barriers, but also by using the power (not authority) of the bully pulpit to motivate communities to organize. In other words, an anarchist government can use its collective power to act in the community’s best interest; it simply recognizes it does not hold a monopoly on power.

The main thrust of the book is in the other, even less known and understood direction:

“Spiritual anarchism (‘internal’ or ‘introverted,’ for those who oppose any unintended implications of supernaturalism in my chosen term) is liberation work aimed in the other direction, toward the interior world. The aim is to empower the true self to overthrow its own head of state — the ego — and thus live a more fruitful and fearless life in direct contact with its base of existence.”

That’s a whole other ball of wax, but the principle is exactly the same: a bottom-up approach to self-empowerment.

I think both aspects of anarchism, political and spiritual, have a great deal of practical value in this current climate in the US, where we have been mired in a political “dark night of the soul” for at least four years and arguably much longer. There is reason to think that dawn is approaching, though maybe the nadir of the night is yet to come. What will get us through this volatile era, and what will take the place of the slippery slide toward authoritarianism that we’ve been on since 9/11/01? Anarchism is the opposite of authoritarianism; perhaps it is high time that it gets to sit at the table and have a constructive voice.

For further reading or to purchase the “Spiritual Anarchism” e-book (only $3), please visit the ND Media Bookstore. A free preview of the book is available.

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