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How I became an anarchist - by Jay

As a twelve year old wannabe punk who had just discovered The Sex Pistols I asked my father, ‘Dad, what is anarchy?’ after hearing Anarchy in the UK. ‘It means no government’ he replied, ‘but that’s impossible. You can’t have a world without any government, there has to be something’. ‘Oh’, I said, and fell silent, pondering his answer, feeling unconvinced that this could be the case, that what Jonny Rotten was singing about was impossible, there had to be more to it than that.

I never pursued the question further back then, I went onto other interests and other punk bands as music came to be a major part of my life. But a seed had been planted.

Six years later I went off to college, an optional post-school pit stop in the Britain before going on to university or employment. In studying politics I soon rediscovered that question from years before, but now framed, ‘what is anarchism?’

I found another unsatisfactory answer as my teacher explained anarchism in a little more detail, saying that ‘the anarchist believes that if all government was abolished tomorrow the world would be a better place, we would all just go in living our lives and things would work themselves out’, and he gestured sweepingly with his arm across the fifth floor window, out over the landscape below. A vision of chaos came to the minds of everyone in the class as we contemplated what the teacher had said.

I was unconvinced but undeterred. I began to study and seek my own answers. I soon discovered the Anarchist FAQ website on the internet, and read that anarchy is a world without hierarchy, where no government existed, where no authority dictated, where no one ruled another. In a state of anarchy all would be equal without denying the freedom of the individual; a freedom that would be restrained only by the freedom of others.
This description of anarchism made sense to me.  As a young punk I had come to consider my individuality sacred, while in my heart I felt a great hatred of injustice and social inequality. Now, in this description a vision of a new world opened up to me. Anarchism was freedom and equality combined.

I went on to discover new ideas like federation, decentralisation and autonomy. I came to understand that anarchism means people working together, taking control of our lives and making decisions in our communities and workplaces together, as equals, building up from the local to the national and beyond. The seed that had been planted years before with that early question, ‘what is anarchy?’ was beginning to bear fruit. I became an anarchist.

Since then I have questioned the tenets of anarchism many times. I have questioned whether society can be organised without hierarchy, without government, without authority. Events in the world around us often make the idea seem remote. However, at some point along the way I discovered a concept that has helped me maintain my conviction: it already exists around us, in a sense, and can be seen everywhere – when friends and workmates help each other, when people take control of their lives and their communities, without waiting for permission or compulsion. As Colin Ward put it, anarchism is like a ‘seed beneath the snow.’

So I continue to be an anarchist, to believe in the possibility of a truly free society, I join others in promoting this idea on a wider scale and try to identify and nurture t in the world around me. In conversations I have with others, I look to plant those seeds, plant the idea that we can take our world back from the authorities that control it, and that people can exist without the dictates of a government. 

A few years ago the conversation of a family meal turned to politics, not the politics of the day but the ideas of politics. My father announced to everyone at the table that, years ago, he’d thought that “anarchism is impossible; you couldn’t have a world without government, you had to have something. But since then, he declared, after many conversations with my son, I have come to understand that anarchism isn’t impossible, that it means more than simply having no government, anarchism is that something that could replace it.” In that statement I knew another seed had been planted.  

 

Jay, February 2014.