Faith In Archy

Thought-sparking piece about anarchy in The New Yorker today: the anarchists involved didn’t convince me, or the author, however, that anarchism is any different from Savonarolism: take everything and burn it just because a few things don’t work. But it did get me to consider anarchy for an instant. I thought of the case of certain religious types, probably predominantly American, who believe that faith in god (and a corresponding fear of hell) is the only thing that keeps everyone from murdering each other, and there would seem to be a parallel among archists like myself: the government is the only thing that keeps murderers from breaking down my door.

But here’s the difference. I’m an agnostic. I think god could exist, but I’m not sure. There’s no scientific evidence, no photograph of a burning bush or a giant monkey flying around with a mountaintop or even Alan Moore’s “rather amazing” snake god. At the same time there was little to no evidence to support evolution two or three centuries back: absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence (Dawkins himself has admitted as much), though at the same time proving the nonexistence of the supernatural could also be logically impossible.

Regardless, I believe these things, and you don’t see me running around killing everybody. I have trouble killing the flies that have infested my bathroom (and despite the annoyance I’ve largely left them alone). When you take away religious faith, people generally do not turn into berserkers: but when you take away government, when you take away the police and the fire department and the ambulances and the huge numbers of soldiers that stand between us and North Korea—I’m writing this from South Korea—what can you possibly expect beyond horror and bloodshed? This is the truism: government is corrupt because people are corrupt, and taking away government will not turn people into angels, just as taking away religion will not turn them into devils.

So instead of throwing out the bathwater with the baby, we should stay committed to cleaning them both in the same tub: mount cameras to all elected officials, and make the feeds accessible to anyone with a dialup connection; raise taxes to a hundred percent on incomes exceeding $250,000 a year, and use the money to provide everyone with enough food, space, and time, to live happily; outlaw private education as well as private medicine; plant trees, build spaceships, cover the rooftops with solar panels, manufacture self-driving cars, destroy the world’s arsenal of nuclear weapons: shit, man, aren’t these crazy ideas radical and utopian enough?

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