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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Thursday, November 17, 2005

"We Don't Need Them"

By Joe Carpenter. Via Richard K. Moore, Cyberjournal.

I’ve never understood the idea of speaking truth to power. The truth, surely, is that in almost all countries of the world, political and economic systems are designed to benefit only the rich and powerful, at the expense of those with less money and power. This is how the world works, and I see no reason to think that the powerful don’t already understand that. After all, they designed it; they maintain it.

They steal our money, sacrifice our children in their wars, send the poorest and most victimized among us off to jail for petty mistakes, and crush those of us who might present a real threat to the arrangement. They know we don’t like it. They don’t care. They don’t need to care. They also control most of our avenues of dissent. It’s a very simple, very elegant design.

Meanwhile, we get angry and toddle off to tell the truth to the powerful. We have been telling them the truth for centuries. We travel to their great palaces by the hundreds of thousands, to express our anger and despair....

Well, the government and their pals are not going to stop using and abusing us. They’re not going to stop preying on us. They cannot stop! Republican or Democrat, they are rich and powerful precisely because they prey on us. They are rich because they rob us. They’re robbing us right this minute. They are powerful because they dominate every aspect of our lives, because they’ve taken control of all the major social, political, economic, and communication systems in the world. These systems were designed to increase their wealth and power by taking both from all the rest of us.

In other words, with all due respect to Coleman McCarthy, we can teach classes in "peace studies" and assign readings from Martin Luther King and "the Rabbi Christ" until we're blue in the face, and it won't do any good. Coercion and violence are how the rich and powerful got that way, and (an occasional Tolstoy aside) the wolves aren't about to be "ethically educated" into giving up their taste for mutton.

But, we are not children, and they are not our parents. We’re not little people and they are not big people. We’re not insignificant and they are not significant. In fact, we do not need them.

....We don’t need to rush out to tell the few that they are abusing the many. They already know that. We need to stand upright and walk out to tell the many that they are being slowly devoured by the few, for -- incredibly, they do not know. We need to look to our next door neighbors, and to their next door neighbors and to the folks all along the block. We need to tell the truth to each other -- for we are the answer....

But the rich and powerful have convinced us that we cannot -- we must not -- communicate with the people we can see and hear and touch, right here, right now. They have convinced us that we need to travel to some government office to persuade elected officials and bureaucrats to change our world for us. The government and media drone on, endlessly, hypnotically, and convince us that if we just elect the right leaders, they’ll talk to our next door neighbor for us....

Want to change the world? Tell the truth to the plumber. Begin with the lady who hands you the stamps at the post office. Talk with the checkout people at the grocery store. Chat with the waiter at your favorite café. Speak with the cops who sit down at the next table. Gab for a few minutes with the guy who changes your oil or with the elementary school teacher with whom you’ve been discussing your child’s future. Lean out of your window while stopped at the light and tell the truck driver some truth he’s certain to recall and ponder.

Feel the need to march? Gather a bunch of folks and wander about your neighborhoods with signs and leaflets. When people walk by, stop and gab with them. When that huge guy with the Hemi-powered Ram pulls alongside and tells you to “love it or leave it,” ask him to stay and talk. Smile, offer your hand, make nice. He’s one of us. He’d make a wonderful ally. When a carload of high school jocks slows to offer some single-fingered communication, hand them some cold colas and tell them about the probability of a draft. They’re our people, too. Convince yourself that this is so, then convince them.

....Forget about telling the government, forget about the hot shots.

To the extent that we believe we need them, exactly to that extent will we continue our dependence upon ruthless, murderous plunderers, people entirely opposed to our needs and deepest longings. As long as we believe we need them, exactly that long will we live life on our knees, begging -- as Mickey Z. says -- for crumbs from their table.

The depth of our apparent need is the measure of their height above us. The nightmare of our poverty is our dream that they have a right to take our money. The illusion of our impotence is the chimera of their monstrous strength. We shall be slaves as long as we’re convinced that we have masters, and not one moment longer.

....Whatever we need, we can get it ourselves. Whatever we want to stop -- we can stop it ourselves. Whatever must be done, we can do it ourselves. We do not need them; we need each other.

Brad Spangler recently stressed the importance of demystifying the state, and its authority and symbolism, as an effort parallel to building counter-institutions:

If your goal is a world where:

1. Bandits, such as the State, are successfully suppressed by institutions of private law, and…

2. Excuses for such bandits (political ideology) are dismissed by almost all as the nonsensical superstitions they are…

Then two things are required to reach that goal:

1. Counter-establishment economic activity (counter-economics — a.k.a. “the black market”) is the only tool that can eventually build institutions of security and law independent of state control. In the mean time, it makes peoples lives better for themselves here and now.

2. State-glorifying political superstition can only be combated with the truth — the whole truth, delivered unflinchingly, relentlessly and unyieldingly; rather than watered down rhetorical tripe designed to get people elected by not challenging existing superstitions to uncomfortably.

Because counter-economics focuses on making peoples lives better here and now, it’s something useful that people can incorporate into their lives, yet it lays the groundwork for eventually laying the state low. In complementary fashion, fighting political superstition provides the environment, in terms of mass psychology, for counter-economics to
germinate and bloom.

Addendum. Via Lenin's Tomb. Col. Chabert writes:

Our beliefs in equality, etc.. are not shared by them; they are the ruling class, and keenly aware of it. They are, I suspect, exactly like Jane Austen's gentry - sensitive to their standing among their own, but without guilt or compassion at all for the vast majority of the planet's population; everyone not at their level is weather, workhouse, rubbish and landscape. Too often we tend to imagine them, to portray them in our speculations, as psychologically similar to ourselves, as belonging to our culture. They aren't - this is evident - and they don't.

This is of course perfectly normal for ruling classes. It would be very unusual - unprecedented -if the few thousands rulers of our world were not really genuinely as indifferent to the views and pains and needs of most people as we are to those of cockroaches.


Blogger Nathan said...

Just curious, Kevin, where did you come across Coleman McCarthy? He lives here in D.C. I used to see him riding his bike around everywhere (which he does, I believe, because he doesn't own a car as gasoline is taxed by the federal government he hates). I'm also pretty sure he limits his income as another modicum of tax resistance. As far as I knew he only taught classes of the kind you describe to kids at the local high school--which sounds like the kind of thing Joe seemed vaguely to be encouraging. Is McCarthy "ethically educating the wolves" as well? Anyway I didn't realize he was so prominent that you would offhandedly mention him, but I'm interested to how his activism or aspects of it is/are an example of the speaking-truth-to-power illusion in practice. Or perhaps it's just that he's not an anarchist?

November 17, 2005 7:33 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

Small point: I'm no scholar on MLK or JHC, but I think that progressives like MLK and JHC specifically because they focused on making grass-roots changes in society. MLK may not have actively resisted the state, but he refused to submit to it. Similarly, the teachings of JHC focus on living without the state, and generally shows disdain for the powerful.

If the powerful are persuaded by MLK or JHC, that's great, but I think their teachings really focused on encouraging the powerless to take control of their own lives.

November 17, 2005 7:44 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

You know, if you want to see a worked example of building replacement institutions within the existing system, you could do worse than look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Strang. It shows the degree of success he achieved and what was done about it, and of course it shows the limitations built in by where you are coming from.

It's also worth noting that much of Islam's approach to remaking the world is consistent with this too, albeit varying the tactics according to how well established it is. It's all very reminiscent of how a ground cover plant works, including how they get established in moments of opportunity.

November 17, 2005 8:51 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy said...

Absolutely inspiring. THANK YOU.

November 18, 2005 12:39 PM  
Blogger Adem D. Kupi said...

this has been one of the best ever.

Good stuff.

November 19, 2005 8:32 AM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

I have coime to the conclusion that a fairly large percent of the ruling class are border-line psychopaths, lack of empathy, systematic lying, and contempt for others being some of the main features of the psychopath.

November 19, 2005 1:33 PM  
Anonymous Brian Cantin said...

The purpose of speaking truth to the powerful is not to educate the powerful. Instead, speaking truth to the powerful is a means of speaking to everybody else. If you are going to speak truth to the powerful in private, you shouldn't bother.
Take, for example, Ray McGovern's interactions with Rumsfeld and Clinton. McGovern got his point across, and McGovern got Rumsfeld to tell a lie so obvious that even the mainstream media had to take notice.

June 09, 2011 9:15 AM  

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