I implore you, put aside the image of a black clad teen smashing windows and setting fire to cars that appears when you hear the word anarchist. At least for the duration of this article. I promise, it’s worth it.
So what is an anarchist, and why should you live like one? Well, general perception is that an anarchist is someone who seeks to live in a world without rules. This definition is only one letter off.
An anarchist is someone who seeks to live in a world without rulers.
Rules are fine with anarchists, at least any of them actually using the word correctly. It’s the rulers we don’t like. It’s the one or few big wigs at the top of the totem pole that get to enforce their wills on the rest of us without any adherence to truth or virtue.
So what does living like an anarchist - a proper anarchist - mean? Kick over trash cans? Flip off ‘the man’? Eat Kit-Kats by just biting into the entire bar at once like a savage?
Well, I suppose you could do that, but it isn’t really what being an anarchist is all about.
The world is changed by what you do, not what you think. Living like an anarchist means applying the principles of anarchy to your everyday life, and seeing how it turns out. I find that a lot of anarchists suck at this, and as I’ve discovered recently, I fall into that group as well.
Living like an anarchist means two things.
Don’t be ruled by anyone you don’t have to be.
Don’t rule anyone.
Most anarchists are pretty good at the first rule. This basically just means don’t do stuff just because someone told you to. Do it because it is right and because you want to do it. That means that when Grandma calls and demands that you visit her more often, but you hate visiting her, don’t go. That also means that when your boss tells you to cook the books in some unsavory ways, you don’t
Perhaps most importantly, this means don’t wait for permission from authority to do something you otherwise know is right.
This all sounds a little hedonistic, so I’ll also mention that you should think about the long term consequences of your actions a bit, as should everyone.
I add the caveat “you don’t have to” to this rule because to the chagrin of any decent anarchist, we are all ruled by a government, and if you don’t bow down and turn out your pockets, you get sent to jail, AKA anarchist hell.
So what about the second rule? The rule that supposedly so many anarchists suck at.
Well, this just means don’t make demands of people that they don’t want to fulfill or that are morally wrong. Don’t seek positions of authority or dominion over people.
Pretty simple right? In fact, even most non-anarchist follow this rule pretty well. But nearly everyone has one giant blind spot on this issue, and when I tell you what it is, your going to smack yourself on the forehead for lack of belief that you didn’t see it yourself.
DON'T RULE OVER YOURSELF.
Don’t demand from yourself behavior that you hate doing. Don’t punish yourself for failing to comply with your willy-nilly demands. Don’t expect perfection from yourself. Don’t enforce rules on yourself with self-flagellating punishments.
To put it simply, treat yourself like you would treat anyone else - like an entity with free will and independant desires that aren’t always convenient, but that should always be respected.
I recently realized that I was failing is this regard, primarily in the area of work, where I think most of us fail that this simple tenant. I had built up a grand structure for myself to function in, and after years of careful construction, I stepped back and realized I had accidentally made a noose.
Almost a year ago, I quit my job. There were a variety of reasons behind that decisions, and one of them was that I didn’t like how I was being managed - or rather, micro-managed. I was getting long lists of tasks without any humanity behind them, harsh criticism when I failed, and no praise when I succeeded. Endless amounts of expectations, and rewards locked behind demands for greater ‘productivity’.
So I quit my job to work for myself doing what I love. I organized my time and tasks into long lists. I ruthlessly disciplined myself whenever I dropped below my expectations and promptly set new expectations when I exceeded the old ones. I set up a series of lofty goals, and I only rewarded myself after a day of greater productivity than the last.
Hopefully you can see the similarities that had evaded me for almost a year.
Don’t rule over yourself. Live by a simple set of rules that you believe in, not by the whim of your own inner tyrant.
Live like an anarchist.