Tear it down, burn it up, destroy it! Who would want to do this to the institutions that provide us with social order? We do need social order to be a civilized people. If you don’t believe this, try driving without traffic laws.
But when we look at the cases of anarchistic behavior that are in the news, that’s really not such a hard question to answer. The answer is; those who do not see those institutions as benefiting themselves and the people they care about. But probably that’s not putting it strongly enough, they see the institutions of social order as evil, inherently and/or irretrievably harmful to themselves and the people they care about. So the question that really matters, or should matter, to the rest of us is: Is there any objective truth in their subjective conclusion? And if there is, what are the factors that make it so?
Because if a person who thinks and acts as an anarchist is simply deluded, running off some kind of self-serving fantasy, then restraint and hopefully therapeutic treatment are enough of a response. We don’t want people running around causing harm to our institutions, structures and persons. But if those of such a mind aren’t just deluded, if there really are conditions in place that give a degree of validity to such a response to our institutions, conditions that make it at least somewhat understandable to an average person who takes the time to see the world through the anarchist’s eyes; then a more complex response is called for.
Let me make it clear that I do not believe that causing harm to our structures and especially to our people is OK. I like to see “what is” respected and treated with love and care. Sometimes, however, caring means change is required, that seems to be a universal law. Somewhere, I’m sorry I can’t quote the source, I saw it put like this: “The only constant is change”. Evolution, development, improvement all involve change. We need to be open to it and embrace it when it is for the common good. And that is something we need to keep in mind when we’re considering our responses to instances of anarchistic behavior.
It seems to me that very often the causes I see anarchists rallying around (and in the Pacific Northwest this seems to be an occasional occurrence) are causes which most people who care about the environment and economic equity are concerned about or ought to be concerned about. There doesn’t seem to be anything which makes an anarchist particularly unique or identifiable when it comes to the causes they rally around. Is it just that anarchists feel acutely impatient to see a resolution of the issues? Is it that anarchists, more acutely than the rest of us, fixate upon the environmental and human costs that some of the world’s issues are exacting?
Are some who choose to identify themselves as anarchists primarily just looking for a reason to vent rage? Are they carrying a generalized rage that has more to do with events in their personal history than the issues they’re proclaiming? It is something to consider. It may have a bearing on their choice of response to the injustices they perceive. But even if that were the case, would that reality justify ignoring the issues being rallied around? Some might say if one issue was resolved the anarchist would then just start acting out around another issue. But what if there were no national or global issues of the type anarchists seem to rally around? Or, more realistically, what if our culture were faster to respond to such issues, not allowing them to linger so long and cause so much harm before we act? Would that be a bad thing?
When I consider the issues represented in the televised instances in which I have witnessed anarchists engaging in destructive behavior, I can’t help thinking about Lady Justice holding a two-edged sword. When our police and courts react to the injustices which anarchists are engaging in; as a method of drawing attention to other injustices – which are not being responded to in a like manner, have we blunted one edge of Lady Justice’s sword?
We seem to have fallen into a regrettable pattern of too often only allowing that sword to be wielded against the least powerful and influential. Two wrongs don’t make a right. We should not ignore one injustice just because we’re not addressing another one. However, in employing such a selective, one-sided response is there an imbalance being created? And if we fall into a pattern of repeatedly just addressing one side of legitimately two sided issues, how long before the imbalance becomes sufficient to destabilize or topple whatever structure or system the imbalance exists within? This seems to be part of the natural corrective response to imbalance.