We all got some chuckles from last week’s The Anarchy. I’m a fan of the annual satirical issue of our beloved paper, but I could definitely get behind a name change. I think that calling a satirical paper The Anarchy belittles some super-relevant political ideas. It also helps to entrench a centuries-old smear campaign that has helped frame anarchism as baloney. Chances are you’ve heard a thing or two about who anarchists are and what they think. Chances are almost everything you have heard is nonsense. Many people seem to think that anarchy is about chaos, violence and disorder. In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Anarchists simply believe that humans are capable of behaving reasonably without being forced. We believe that when allowed, people are perfectly capable of organizing their own communities without needing to be told how, and that when people are shitty to each other, it’s usually the result of the hierarchical and oppressive structures that are imposed on us and the inequalities that result.
Instead of seeing the government as necessary for governing everyday life and ensuring society runs fairly, anarchists understand the state – regardless of who is in power – as unnecessary and harmful. The main function of the state is to guarantee the existing social structure of society. Though we are told we live in a democracy, it is well established that government policy is shaped more by corporate agendas than everyday people. Look at the current scandal surrounding Bombardier, which is proposing massive executive bonuses in a year that the company received over $1 billion in bailouts and spun its wheels financially. Look at the degree to which the Irvings shape policy and regulation in one of the poorest provinces in Canada. You’ll find this shit in every “democratic” state anywhere, ever. This is because power corrupts.
Anarchists think that organizing society so that the everyday lives of millions are largely determined by a handful of people is totally ridiculous. Instead, we seek to invest power directly and democratically in the hands of the people, putting decision-making power at the most local levels. I ain’t gonna get all bogged down in theory here, but a lot of these ideas are just about having the courage to take the simple principles of common decency that we all live by and following them through to their logical conclusions. Every time you treat another human with consideration and respect, you are being an anarchist. Every time you work out your differences with others by coming to reasonable compromise, listening to what everyone has to say rather than letting one person decide for everyone else, you are being an anarchist. Every time you have the opportunity to force someone to do something, but decide to appeal to their sense of reason or justice instead, you are being an anarchist.
With capitalism in a profound state of crisis and transition, anarchists’ alternative political visions and consistent critiques of power are capturing the attention of disillusioned people all over the world. Instead of waiting every four years for the “privilege” to elect our rulers, anarchists push for collective direct action and urge us to take our lives into our own hands. The Trump administration has made crystal clear the inadequacy of limiting our activism to the legal parameters set by increasingly oppressive governments. Mount Allison’s administration has proven time and time again its utter disregard toward the moral appeals from its stakeholders as seen right now with the divestment debacle. I commend students who have refused to accept the administration’s refusal to act on climate change by occupying university space and administrative offices to demand divestment. You understand the urgency we face, and that the absurdity of this kind of inaction threatens life on this planet. Please also understand that it is only through the continuation of these kinds of bold collective actions that we will see the changes we so desperately need! (Oh and, with respect, I’ll add: you shouldn’t have to apologize for chanting “SHAME!” at Robbie Campbell. It’s fucking shameful and we need to name names).
I really don’t care to turn everyone into self-professed anarchists here. But please, think about taking your fate and the collective fate of your communities into your own hands – even in small ways. We cannot wait around for those in power to listen to our appeals. We cannot rely on measly reform after measly reform to deliver the change we need.