Are you an Anarchist?

Atheist_AnarchistI’d want to be an anarchist but they are crazy, bomb-wielding, nihilistic, immature, crazed fanatics. Well, that is what lots of people think or are told to think. But in a talk two days ago Noam Chomsky told us otherwise:

anarchism seeks to free labor from economic exploitation and society from ecclesiastical guardianship.

Well, heck, I support that. Indeed, over my decades of political ponderings, I have realized that I am probably a type of anarchist. But jeez, that name.  Why would I ever choose “anarchist” as an identity label with all those negative connotations?


I think lots of folks who don’t believe in any gods have wondered if they are atheists but because of negative caricatures, devilish nuances and deplorable images, they probably shivered at the thought and put the label to rest because everyone knows atheists are disgusting and immoral.

Ah words! With the right loading, they can easily stop us from thinking.

We run after words for identity. Do we do it because they identify us correctly, or because their nuances and connotations are the ones we want others to understand us through?  I think you know my thoughts.

Question to readers:  Any words you might have embraced if others understood them differently?



Filed under Philosophy & Religion

9 responses to “Are you an Anarchist?

  1. Hedonist. It comes with too much baggage.

  2. @ John Zande: LOL. How about “Epicurean” — nah, then they will just think we are snobs. Damn!

  3. Chomsky is right about anarchism. But so is your characterization as “nihilism”. The term “anarchism” embraces a wide range of possible views, some of them mutually contradictory.

  4. That’s definitely how I originally felt about the word atheist, and I still see that reasoning a lot today. On the topic of other dirty words that I might have embraced had it not been for the connotations, I definitely have had times when I would have been accepting of socialist ideas (although not so much today, now I’d consider myself just a regular old social liberal).

  5. I tend to self identify as an “anarcho-nihilist”. So, have fun with that one!

    And I love this quote:
    “Anarchism stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion and liberation of the human body from the coercion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. It stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals…”
    Emma Goldman
    [I put the quote in for you Bo]

  6. @ William Bell,
    Excellent you understood my point — the dirty words keep us away from an otherwise useful self-label and yet, self-labeling itself is fraught with problems.

    @ Bo,
    Yep, and since labels never fit perfectly, we keep tinkering with them, modifying them and making new denominations to market.

    @ Neil,
    Hmmmm, not sure I got your point. I’m not sure their is a “right” anarchism — you know my view of language. But we know for sure there is a “wide range of possible views” on the meaning.

    But then, this post isn’t about anarchy at all. I just touched the issue to draw to deeper issues. In the same way that the real workings of religions are about deeper things than just the apparent outer confessional beliefs.

  7. “anarchism seeks to free labor from economic exploitation and society from ecclesiastical guardianship.“

    This is too broad, and it is not a means but a goal. A lot of people on the left have the same goal. The differences between anarchists, pragmatic socialists, utopian socialists, social democrats, communists, and many other political theories are *how* to achieve this goal.

    A fundamental principle of political philosophy is the status and character of the state. Western (capitalist) political scientists use Max Weber’s definition: the organization(s) with a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. Lenin has a slightly different defintion: the organization that maintains by force the privilege of the ruling class. Lenin considered a state by this definition to be required after a revolution to maintain the privilege of the working class. Lenin’s anarchist contemporaries (notably Bakunin) more or less agreed with his definition, but considered such a state to be not only unnecessary but inherently corrupting to communist ideals.

    The problem I have with self-described anarchists is that either I cannot distinguish their ideology from those that do *not* call themselves anarchist (see the list above) or that they have a naive or infantile view of political reality. Anarchists will have to do more than name a couple of lofty goals for me to take them seriously,

  8. Hey Larry,
    Hint: The post is not meant to be about “Anarchy”. Can you guess what I am really writing about?

  9. Tristan

    I am both these things ^_^

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