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Civilization Versus Anarchy

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Whether anarchy or civilization... gauntlets in tandem?

(4th edition - February 2009) by A.O. Kime
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Over the centuries it seems evident, even since the beginnings of civilization it seems evident… humans are incapable of ruling each other… not judiciously and not intelligently. Since civilization began rooting itself some 7,000 years ago, only a few dozen men have made good kings, good rulers. And of the millions of bureaucrats seemingly few have been worth their salt. Today, you probably can’t find one good bureaucrat in a hundred. These are ominous signs ‘civilization’ has failed to live up to its expectations.

At least that’s how it often seems… but before trying to make an objective comparison between anarchy and a civilized existence, let’s begin by looking at civilization from a pessimistic point-of-view then see where it goes.

While the concept of 'civilization' seems to have failed in several respects, all the causes seem rooted in the fact ‘humans ruling humans’ goes against nature itself. It was not intended that man should be governed, it is unnatural. It is as unnatural as one bear telling another what to do. It is unnatural as one flock of birds telling another flock where they can and cannot fly. Creatures only submit to guidance until adulthood.

Ah, but wait, what about intimidation? One animal intimidating another into doing something amounts to the same thing as a directive. This seems natural. And what about herds? Herds have protocols… don’t they? Wild horses, it has been demonstrated, must 'go along' or risk being ostracized. Assuredly deer and caribou herds have protocols too. Fish have schools and birds have flocks.

Of course, we all know the various protocols are associated with survivability. The vulnerable keep themselves together to improve their chances for survival... although some predators, such as wolves, run in packs for hunting efficiency. The powerful, on the other hand, don’t need to run in packs. However, as for the most defenseless of creatures, at first glance flocking together wouldn't seem to make much sense... they'd still be easy prey. After all, predators can still take their pick of the litter... except, it isn't the strongest and fastest within a group which are the targets usually, but the weakest or slowest. For the stronger and faster then, it improves their chances. In effect, herds, schools and flocks use the weakest and slowest for bait.

As perhaps somehow related... in civilized societies, suckers are the bait.

Still, humans aren’t horses, birds, bears, deer, dogs or fish. Whether some humans prefer the isolationism of a bear, or to flock like sheep, doesn't matter... nobody has the god-given authority to rule another. Since there is no record of any authority given, not by our maker anyway, ‘humans ruling humans’ is therefore unnatural... but then again, the creator isn't known to issue decrees. His wishes can only be determined by what is considered 'natural'.

In lieu of explicit instructions then, what might be natural for humans? Herds and flocks, along with their protocols, is apparently natural but so is the individualism of a bear and mountain lion. So, which of these is natural for humans? Might humans flocking together be natural after all? Along with protocols too? Might ‘human rule’ be for survival purposes similar to the security flocks and herds provide? But survival for whom? The weak, the leaders, or all mankind? One often wonders too, blast it, is it just to preserve his institutions? Well, perhaps the following will answer those questions.

The institution of civilization

In the very beginning, each family was basically on their own... then families started grouping together for mutual support and this grouping never stopped growing. As one group of families got bigger and therefore more powerful, other families had to follow suit. They eventually evolved into countries and rest is history. So, whether natural or not, humans chose to run in packs. Of course, packs require leaders, and rules. It became to be known as 'civilization'.

Although all creatures (including humans) are wired to conduct themselves in certain ways, of tendencies both weak and strong, outcomes are really under the auspice of 'freedom'. As a natural existent, absolute freedom is the divine apparatus which lets things happen... 'naturally'. If that wasn't true, then we'd all be robots... never to waver one iota. Without freedom of movement within an array of choices, all that exists in the universe would make no sense.

Since absolute freedom does exist (as an existent), the act of exercising it should be called 'choicing' (coined) because a verb is needed to describe an action which makes life possible (otherwise impossible). The term 'choosing' isn't apropos for this phenomenon.

While perhaps some would disagree 'absolute freedom' is an existent, being nothing of substance, 'nothingness' in effect, whereby it can't be called anything, that it is just represents the 'absence of law'... except, we wouldn't have laws if it didn't exist. Although 'absolute freedom' doesn't exist in a manner mortals are familiar, neither does 'life'. These are truths of the ethereal.

However, while the 'grouping' of humans may have been a natural consequence, its makeup (civilized societies) became unnatural. For one, unlike flocks and herds, the strongest and wisest are rarely the rulers anymore. At least not since the days when anarchy was anarchy. Here lies the greatest evidence... civilized societies feel the further distanced they are from nature, the more 'civilized' they become. Stupid. Being 'unnatural' is the very thing proving to be their Achilles' heel.

Of course, there are other negative side-effects and shortcomings for being ‘civilized’... hundreds if not thousands. For example, invariably institutions end up serving themselves whereas its original purpose takes the backseat. For them, it is survival at all costs. The only way they evolve is to strengthen their own position... or, if their usefulness ever ceased, they'd refuse to step aside. Like the IRS, institutions consider themselves immortal.

While it might often seem being civilized has paid off despite its shortcomings, there is evidence it has only proven itself a short term solution to the negative aspects of living under anarchy. While it took centuries for civilization to take hold in most cases, and while the concept once looked promising… the promising aspects only lasted a century or two before the worm began to turn. To be ‘civilized’ soon meant ‘to be controlled' effectively amounting to the loss of personal liberties at the point of a gun.

Even though the losses of liberties might seem a more tolerable situation compared to anarchy, these losses and most all other negative side-effects have been growing exponentially. While the population explosion would explain the growing environmental problems, it doesn't explain the rapidness of the clamp-downs. It is out of proportion. In that most missteps are now considered felonies, not misdemeanors as they rightfully should be, reeks of an agenda.

Anarchy... a bad circumstance?

While anarchy is lambasted as a very bad circumstance, it may not have always been historically true... not in the earliest days. After all, there seems sufficient evidence violence is relative to the population density. Still, it couldn't have been too bad otherwise we wouldn't have the situation we find ourselves in today (over-populated). To whatever degree anarchy was a violent atmosphere, the sum total of individual incidences would seem to pale in comparison to civilized warfare.

Also, while the injected element of 'civilization' created the right environment for science advancements... they've turned out to be a double-edged sword. The environment is paying a heavy price. As for improving peace and security, violence still seems relative to the population density as the problems are growing. Of course, given the population today, anarchy would surely be doing much worse... at least in the urban areas.

Unfortunately, although beyond the scope of their imagination, the ancient architects of civilization could not have foreseen the ultimate impact. Only recently have we awakened to the environmental dangers from too much consumption. We haven't yet, however, fully recognized the dangers of civilization's aggressive social policies.

From a broader point-of-view, as an injected element to improve matters civilization has only produced superfluous positive results in light of its overall impact.

Furthermore, the realities it creates are often contradictory. For example, it is paradoxical that civilized warfare effectively cancels out the gains from modern medicine. Or that other life-saving advancements are cancelled out by automobile accidents worldwide which kill nearly 100,000 people annually. Yet, "that's life", as the saying goes today. While population gains are more than offsetting losses, it is only the survivors of this gauntlet which benefit. There's no denying it, whether anarchy or civilization, they're both gauntlets.

In trying to be objective and make a case against anarchy as well, it's more difficult. We can't compare modern-day anarchic situations following the collapse of a government during war or civil strife since those situations would be due to the failure of civilization, not anarchy. Since we'd need a 'settled' example, only a people living under anarchy for several generations could serve as a comparison. Yet, apparently none exist... at least not intellectual equals. So, the only way to envision anarchy is to subtract the effects of civilization.

In subtracting the effects, anarchy would have been a world of far fewer luxuries. Items of every variety, large and small, and especially those which require hundreds of skilled craftsmen probably wouldn’t exist. Education would suffer immensely and social programs would be non-existent. So too, power grids. These and other such benefits and 'comforts' would be the tradeoff for living under anarchy just like the loss of personal freedoms is the tradeoff for being ‘civilized’.

Yet, at what price these luxuries? Well, the cost has been deferred. While modern gadgets and conveniences are great, although we could live without them, neither the 21st century, nor any future century, will have the comforting thought that our natural resources are ‘limitless’. It's a high price to pay.

Civilized societies aren't coping with the current population it created either... tens of thousands die each day from starvation. So, is civilization serving the best interests of mankind in the long run? Perhaps though, it isn't a fair question. The current situation may have been inevitable whether civilization was 'in charge' or not because civilization is really only a progressive state of anarchy. In other words, civilization is only a system for which to control undesirable anarchic situations. To blame civilization for over-population would be like blaming a broken dike for flooding a valley. Without the dikes, of course, the flooding would have occurred anyway but in going too far in trying to manage things often makes matters worse.

Despite the negative impact of over-population, the idea to control it isn't on any political agenda since it would have a negative effect on the world economy. In need of ever-expanding marketplaces, big business and their lobbyists would fight the idea tooth and nail. Only China sees it differently.

The ethically unfit and civilized law

Aside from the aforementioned long-term downsides from living under the rule of law (civilization), overshadowing them all is the shortcomings of human nature. More specifically, this humungous negative is the ethically unfit. Unfit humans are the guiltiest of all parties for bringing civilization to its knees… more-so than institutions, more-so than even ruling megalomaniacs. Of course, the unfit was a problem for anarchic societies as well.

The unscrupulous, those without an operating conscience, consisting of people who would stoop to any level to get what they want, is the reason laws were thought necessary in the first place. Subsequently, as loopholes in the laws were discovered one by one, more and more laws were deemed necessary. We see the result… we are now drowning in a sea of laws.

The unfit were (are) the squanderers, the destroyers of land, the cheats, thieves, intimidators, liars and murderers. While the list is much longer, it's what necessitated so many laws… and because of these fundamental indiscretions (and worse) committed by humans since the beginning, there has always been an adversarial relationship between governments and its citizens. Governments don’t trust its citizens any more than its citizens trust them and both have just cause.

The primary reason civilization can’t function humanitarianly is not only because good leaders are hard to find, or because institutions invariably fail, but because millions upon millions of unethical and egregious acts are committed daily. Humans seem to beg for tyranny… making a police state inevitable under any political system.

Today, a justice system deals with the unfit whereas under anarchy it was reprisals. While laws provide for punishment, reprisals might either be harsher or more lenient but jailing would rarely occur. The matter would likely be dealt with swiftly and, unlike today, done cost effectively. While we know civilization has proven itself ineffective in controlling crime, although largely due to legal definitions all over the map, incongruous as well, anarchy probably didn't do much better. Without a standard, likewise its justice was all over the map. Roving gangs of murderous thieves would have been the biggest problem in anarchic societies but neighborhood militias could have met this challenge.

Household anarchy

So how would it feel living under anarchy? Well, if we can consider 'unwritten laws' as anarchy, then we already know. Under that description, almost every household on earth is anarchic… it would be uncommon if a household had written laws covering its particular household rules. Like anarchy, family members normally abide by verbal, known or assumed understandings. Curfews placed on children are seldom in the form of written laws… they are verbally expressed by the parents.

Or, similarly, if we can consider 'codes of conduct' in lieu of written laws as anarchy, then it effectively exists outside the home as well. In order for people to successfully interact with others, they should, but are not legally required to, abide by the unwritten (nonbinding) codes of proper conduct. Proper conduct, of course, was devised by trial and error during the Stone Age… retribution comes into play for those who don’t abide by these codes. In short, societies can function without written rules. Unwritten codes of conduct, just like the 'unwritten' household rules, work even in a 'civilized' society. There is no conflict. As 'regulators' of sorts comprised of understandings of a ethical nature, they stand side-by-side with law forever covering the legally unaddressed.

However, these unwritten rules of proper conduct, or any rule (law) whatsoever, can only be made genuine by those in position to penalize. In other words, ordinarily one would only acquiesce to those whose retribution they fear but it isn't just government retributions they might fear. Even without legal recourse (laws), sufficient retribution can also come from neighborhoods, employers, relatives, clubs, consumers and one's own clique.

In order for an anarchic society to carry on efficiently it must rely heavily on truth, trust and goodwill... but so does civilization. In this, civilization and anarchy are no different… neither can function effectively otherwise. This truth is something lawmakers tend to forget... that laws can never take their place. The Remedy? A curriculum of ethics during the formative (juvenile) years.

Actually, to ‘function’ infers that a particular system is ‘operating as intended' but this can only be applicable to civilized societies. In other words, anarchy isn’t a system (per se) so therefore there isn’t anything ‘institutional’ to break down. If anarchy gets ‘out of hand’ (too much killing or wholesale injustice for example), then it becomes merely an intolerable situation. Was anarchy intolerable then? For enough people, apparently so… otherwise laws wouldn’t have been created.

The essence of anarchy

In effect, civilization consists of a body of laws and these laws are like a structure's veneer and the 'structure' is anarchy. In other words, civilized law is just an add-on. Anarchy, on the other hand, isn’t a system but instead the absence of a system. Yet it exists nonetheless and is pervasive. It is as omnipresence as the earth and sun. It is fundamental. Underneath all laws is anarchy, a permanent fixture. Like the sun, it cannot be outlawed or banished... civilized laws can only try to have more influence.

In order to have true anarchy, there cannot be any laws agreed upon… not a single solitary one. Once a single law is agreed upon as enforceable… it is no longer anarchy. If this wasn't true, then any unaddressed injustice would define civilization as anarchy. The essence of anarchy is ONLY non-enforceable understandings (with no prescribed penalties). However, one would soon learn that courtesy, respect and honesty is how one survives in a lawless society. One must be ethical... or else.

Once thought a cure-all for anarchical injustices, the rule of law doesn't necessarily make unscrupulous people ethical. If not skirting the law, these ethically unfit often seek out and thrive on unjust situations which no law yet addresses… to ultimately require yet more laws be passed. Again, this isn’t the lawmakers fault but the unethical… although legislators almost always go too far as many laws make matters worse.

Whether it is legislating morality (blue laws), or passing laws to punish smokers, or the overly-strict drunk driving laws, the injustices persist. Smoking laws go so far as to ignore the 800 year-old tradition of honoring property rights dating back to the Magna Carta. And, as evidenced by ballot propositions such as Arizona's proposition 203, the will of the majority riding herd over the will of a minority is also occurring even though majority rule has been proven unjust for centuries. It's an anarchical situation unto itself.

If civilized society collapsed back into anarchy, everything would soon revert back to how it was in ancient times… when veracity and honor kept people alive. For those without these attributes, it was open season. One had to be very careful who they killed however, lest start a blood feud. Often however, few people would care who killed the really bad guys… unless that bad guy belonged to a gang of other bad guys. Nonetheless, anarchy surely did a better job ridding society of scum.

Stuck with civilization now, for better or worse… there are many things we could do to improve it. A good beginning is to abolish sovereign immunity in order to hold more accountable public employees and officials. Under the protection of sovereign immunity, government employees have a license to harass, injure or even kill without much fear of retribution. They might only lose their jobs.

As far as self-serving public institutions, forever empire building, term limits is the remedy. However, if we really wanted a progressive state, a more ideal state... then most of management should not be over 30 years old. The young, at least many, have an especial 'coolness'... the only demeanor in the world with honorable attributes.

Living under anarchy

Today, living under anarchy would be a nightmare for city folks but likely workable in rural areas. Those with a 'country' mindset would seem more adaptable. At least it would re-demonstrate that family farmers, not banks, are the underpinning of any economic system (axiom: all new wealth comes from the soil). However, it wouldn't last long because of 'organizing'. People would be forever scheming to join forces and become more powerful. Civilization and its stringent laws would be made inevitable once again.

Until that happens, the extent of problems under anarchy would depend largely on the type of neighbors and who might frequent the vicinity. It would be perilous for perhaps decades because, like a bathtub not having been cleaned for years, society has allowed a buildup of scum (the unfit). Aside from the natural-born scum, the hypocritical nature of civilized society has created even more. Also, it's because jail-time isn't as fearful as vengeance. Knowing you could get deservingly bushwhacked at any hour would be interminable terror.

So, whether getting hacked to death by a savage or getting blown to bits by a mortar round... they're both gauntlets.

In the end, civilized societies are nothing more than anarchy with legal recourse. When wars occur, this indicates society has re-embraced the purity of anarchy. It's re-embraced every time a war or 'state of emergency' is officially declared. Anarchy is the fallback point… it can always be counted on to solve major problems.

The attributes of civilization and its stutter-step march

Yet, civilization has some excellent attributes not yet mentioned. Knowing the police are but a phone call away is a comforting thought. Roadway traffic is regulated. There is legal recourse for the weak and banking systems make things convenient. There is an abundance of food and supplies. It has the ability to provide man with nearly everything he wants, those things which God doesn't provide... and, except for greatly limiting his freedoms, has made life much more comfortable.

Even though the question is now academic as to whether the benefits from being civilized outweigh absolute freedom, success is still linked to the freedoms extended. It's relative and cannot be disentangled. Freedom is the foundation on which greatness is built and failure to recognize it is demonstrated by many less-than-grand countries.

While we might often get disgusted with civilization we should take into account it hasn't yet matured. It may take several more centuries before all the bugs are worked out. Apparently 7,000 years isn't enough time. We shouldn’t give up on it just yet... although putting those under thirty in charge would help speed things up. The young haven't yet forgotten what justice is all about and their zest for life would equate to better decision-making. It then wouldn't take governments forever to do the right thing.

While progress has often been called the ‘march of civilization’, sometimes it marches in the wrong direction which forces a painstaking correction which usually takes centuries. Although we may be better off than five centuries ago, it's doubtful we're better off than the 19th century. Aside from bankrupting government, today's trend of trying to cure all ills of society would eventually require everyone in strait-jackets. Restricting freedom too much ruins the experience of life for everyone. We must be willing to accept some risks otherwise lose the joys of living. In the meantime, our juices are being sapped.

Like smokers, if we're not watchful everyone will be punished for their particular pleasures. All dangers could be outlawed like skydiving, mountain climbing, boxing, rodeos, auto racing, football and scuba diving. These days, new restrictions are often rooted in 'political correctness', a term which has elbowed its way into the social arena. Utilized to built a head of steam, it says obesity will be next. As one thing usually leads to another, jurisprudence would then say that if one danger can be justifiably banned, then all dangers can be justifiably banned. Of course, behind it all are the insurance companies... the monetary beneficiaries.

Since the absence of a regulating system (anarchy) is, in itself, an eternal reality, undeniably representing 'absolute freedom', a natural existent as pervasive as the spirit world, only the survivability of civilization can be questioned. After all, it's manmade. In this respect, the prospects for America look bleak unless it is willing to revert back to a just system since straitjackets and the failure of societies are historically linked. When? The 19th century would be best (no slavery of course), the early 20th century next, but no later than the 1950s (the last tolerable decade). Otherwise, an intolerable situation is flirting with danger.

With 10 times more prisoners today (est. 2,000,000) than in the 1970s (est. 200,000), says the establishment has lost touch with reality and spinning out-of-control. It has also lost control of our economic system. While sub-prime loans may have ignited the crisis, they became 'toxic' as the result of all that's wrong with America.

Denying a professional license to someone for an unrelated felony conviction is also wrong... largely because almost any 'wrongdoing' is a felony these days. Anyone conscionable who has recently served on a grand jury has surely seen this as an injustice.

In summary, the current path is leading civilization towards the Abyss of Total Madness and the point-of-no-return is just around the bend. It seems to have been long forgotten that naturalness is a 'single package' and within it are the harmonious workings of a perpetual-motion machine. It is immutable and 'tinkering' throws it out of balance. Only by being in sync with the natural order can insure long-term survival. The further out of sync, the shorter the prospects become... it's all relative.

A.O. Kime

Last modified: 03/06/16