An Omnidirectional Approach to Anti-Authoritarianism

“Certitude belongs exclusively to those who only own one encyclopedia.” ― Robert Anton Wilson 
I can think of no better term to describe my political philosophy than anti-authoritarian. That simple term encapsulates my most consistently held beliefs concerning the nature of relations between individual, society and state. That I above all oppose authoritarian policies, aggressions and values is the firm bedrock from which I evaluate any and all action. That I favor liberty over tyranny is an absolute principle. 

There are many factions of formal and loose-knit tribes of anti-authoritarians. I sympathize in varying degrees with all of them. On the other hand, I have found that the very moment I’ve identified myself with a specific subset of anti-authoritarianism, I begin talking myself out of such a commitment. The reason for this has to do with what Robert Anton Wilson described as “omnidirectional reading.” His practice was to read philosophies across the spectrum and even diametrically opposed to each other. This method of information gathering allows for greater ability to relate to some but not all of many competing perspectives. He did this to prevent becoming trapped in what he called a "reality tunnel." All ideologies for the most part demand a certain conformity or total commitment to its doctrines. It’s that conformity that I’ve never been able to square, because I've never found a perfect system of ideology that answered every concern to my total satisfaction. 

Being simply an anti-authoritarian allows me freedom to support all measures and means of opposing tyranny and violence without having to “compromise my ideology.” At the moment, I’m perfectly at peace with throwing me support behind 3rd parties when their efforts overlap with issues that matter to me. Whether that party happens to be Pirate, Green or Libertarian presents no barrier to my spreading their message when it agrees with my values. Being outsiders and underdogs working outside of the corruption of the Washington elite apparatus, I see them as defensive educational platforms. They don't have the power to enact violence the way that the Democrats or Republicans can. They are strictly agitators throwing rocks at the empire. 


A strict orthodox anarchist would never support any political party or candidate on principle. This is why I know I fail the purity test. Orthodoxy is not how I’m wired. My pure, idealist self is in total agreement with a peaceful and cooperative stateless society. My practical self sees any means of protecting individuals from invasion or aggression from the state as a tool to be used - even if only viewed as a temporary means to be replaced. The way I see matters is that if a political act, be it a new bill or an overturning of an unjust law, furthers the cause of liberty and peace, I’m happy to see it advance. I accept the fact that the structures that I philosophically take exception to in principle do not disappear by my refusal to acknowledge them. 

If lives can be saved or wars can be averted we should not baulk to pressure the decision makers on such matters to act politically. Semantic arguments that circle the fact that the war or devastating sanction would never be possible in a stateless world do not save the lives at stake right then. Don’t misunderstand me, those moral arguments should always be made – in tandem with whatever expedient method is at hand.

To quote another author, “there's the world as we wish it to be and there’s the world as it is.” If a peaceful and voluntarily stateless society were possible, by all means that would be my ideal world. Completely self-organized, decentralized, spontaneous, horizontal and non-coercive – nothing could be better in my view. And yet society in the West has been moving towards and now on the brink of a total Fascist state on a seeming march towards martial law. 

People seem to prefer collectivism and taken further, a strongly defensive nationalism. In light of that fact, my heart is behind any and every institution that can introduce measures of defense against such a state. Whether it’s a military or government insider that leaks misconduct, as in the case of Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning, or a community of anarchists engaging in direct action – I favor all measures.

By technicality, an anarchist isn’t supposed to lend support to government agencies like the National Parks Services that have begun a social media insurrection against the Trump regime. Since “taxation is theft” those Park Rangers are all immoral and don’t deserve support according to the puritan position, so it goes. Well, sorry to the puritans, but I’m getting a hell of a kick out of the Alt National Park Service and other rouge accounts openly defying the acting administration, if in fact it’s a genuine act of resistance. I know I'm not the only one. 


I’ve never been one for conformity or rule following. What I will be attacked for is a lack of ideological consistency. Because if I were utterly constant, I wouldn't have these internal struggles, right? It's quite clear to me that people who think they operate under complete rational consistency are really deluding themselves. The human brain, prone to emotional vulnerabilities, proves to be far less than robotic. I would also rebut that my position is not an easy abandonment of principles but a more flexible approach to advancing achievable ends in reality as it is today. Taking on issues case by case, I find that there are usually alliances that can be made to win battles, if not the ultimate war.

Creating temporary and transitory strategic political alliances on issues like domestic surveillance or fracking can lead to more immediate beneficial outcomes if one doesn’t demand an economic agreement as a term of partnership. To me that degree of “consistency” is utter foolishness to the point of reckless harm to the cause you claim to advocate.

An anti-authoritarian can enter coalitions across official political party lines and citizen run outfits without needing to betray some oath sworn on an online message board. Of primary concern is who is best positioned to advance the right move on the board when there’s an opportunity to make the move. President Obama was the only available actor in play that could grant a commutation to Chelsea Manning. Therefor, petitioning him to do so was the right thing to do. Refusing to advocate presidential action in that case would have been a ludicrous affront to justice for the sake of abstract principle. What mattered in that case was not that a war criminal acted on in the behalf of freedom. What mattered is that Manning is set for release and an injustice was corrected. That was an advancement of liberty even though the government’s danger to humanity yet grows.


I will part ways with the Green Party agenda when it comes to a range of philosophical positions regarding the morality of the size and scope of government. But to the extent that a Green representative could provoke conversations about police brutality and bankster shenanigans, I stand right there with them. To the extent that a Libertarian candidate can shine a light on constitutional violations of the 4th amendment or the evil of the War on Drugs, I fully support them.  To the extent that a growing Pirate Party can create awareness for the unsung issue of Intellectual Property law or opposing NSA data collection, I commend them.

Quite a number of prominent anarchists participate in electoral politics either defensively or strategically. I don’t question their commitments. Like it or not the scales of liberty sway in relationship to who holds the illegitimate reigns of power at any given time. This  holds true on the local as well as the national stage. I’m not implying that the shadow government or deep state factions can be overturned by mere ballots. (This last election should turn any optimist of representative democracy into somewhat of a pessimist.) I am saying battles that occur on the margins can be and should be won. I point to the defeat of measures like SOPA and CISPA, state decriminalizing of marijuana or state legalization of gay marriages. These little defenses of liberty matter. I'm hugely in favor of citizen groups like Electronic Frontier Foundation and Stop Watching Us that petition Congress to protect our privacy. 


Anti-authoritarians can join allies across the political spectrum on a case-by-case basis. To contextualize matters further, I would rather have an operational 3rd party contingent both nationally and even more so locally that has greater access to news media than to have no oppositional parties at all. It’s a fact that they receive very little press and even the public largely ignores their efforts and yet they still serve as portals of entry for radicalizing individuals fed up with the status quo. The marginal educational platform for anti-establishment solutions that 3rd parties facilitate serves a function.

Thought of in terms of a multi-pronged effort, 3rd parties make sense to me, although on their own, they’re not nearly effective or radical enough. Individuals active among 3rd parties are committed to their respective causes and can be counted on to take action when it comes down to applying pressure on elected officials and creating oppositional presence. In short, unlike their counterparts among the Coke and Pepsi brands, I find them to be mostly agreeable, smart and subversive friends to have. The best thing they do is radicalize their former party compatriots on the road towards stronger anti-authoritarian ideas.

Setting aside political means of change, I do find most agreement with the philosophies of the anarchists. That statement requires a lot of clarification and conjecture when getting into the finer points of the branch’s of anarchism developed out of a plethora schools. That being said, the strictness of belief I’ve encountered among self-described anarchists can become off-putting when engagement with them becomes a pissing match of purity.

Anarcho-capitalists and anarcho-communists are forever at odds to the point of unadulterated hatred. Their differences about how to economically organize society in absence of a state prevent most of them from ever considering collaborating on the first step of ending the state. The back and forth bickering is unrelenting between factions of mutualists, feminists, vegans, primitivists, left market anarchists, socialists, etc. A commitment to debate can be a healthy sign of life and vitality. But I don’t think many people got involved to exist in a debate club bubble.

Anarcho-capitalists who celebrate the privatization of our lakes, oceans and wildlife don’t strike me as the slightest bit anti-authoritarian by displaying an eagerness to transfer power and domination of ownership from one monopoly to another. Corporatocracy is merely another form of authority and dominance based on control of capital. I knew I was disqualifying my orthodox anti-state credentials when I couldn’t get excited at the prospect of Trump defunding NPS, PBS and NPR. On the scale of tyranny, the extortion of 10 or 20 bucks so poor kids can watch Sesame Street or that our forests aren’t stripped away to make way for pipelines and parking lots, is not the tyranny I’m most concerned with. Dismantling social services while preserving crony capitalist markets represents no victory for free society.

"Ideologically, of course, I should have voted for Ed Clark, the Libertarian Party candidate; but I am not that kind of Libertarian, really; I don't hate poor people."  Robert Anton Wilson, speaking about the 1980 presidential election  

Admittedly, my sentimentality is an obstacle against 100% stone cold logic and rationalism. I favor defending services for public benefit until a clear voluntary replacement emerges. My conscience demands no less. It takes quite a callous radical to demand total overnight destabilization that would crush the already oppressed and victimized among us. The left-anarchists understand this best and I clearly favor their agenda over the right-anarchist path of corporate privatization.

Having taken some issue with the right-wing branch of anarchism, I have to admit to not having fully resolved my alliances with the far left variant that takes a more militant approach to anti-statism. The infamous Black Bloc anarchists favor a very forward campaign of rioting and physical confrontation as a means of confronting systemic violence. Having studied the by and large historical failure of such methods going back to the Weathermen of the 1960's-70's, I continue to reevaluate the possibilities of a small fringe movement beating the state at it's own game without the support of the populace. Despite their legitimate claims that violence has already been initiated by the state through militarized police and institutionalized racism, Black Bloc strategies may provide just the legal justification for extreme clampdowns against all forms of dissent that the far right would love to unleash.

Trump and his administration don't appear to be the least bit intimidated in the aftermath of destructive actions during the DC inauguration or more recently at the University of Berkeley in an effort to shut down the intentionally provocative rhetoric of Milo Yiannopoulos. As the far left readies itself to deploy added force at every turn, the far right can be expected to respond in kind. This tit for tat escalation could prove disastrous on the basis that it's the right that holds vast resources of weaponry that small bands of a few hundred can never hope to defeat. Milo and Trump are salivating at the opportunity to delegitimize the resistance and it will do so with all means of media propaganda. 

Steve Bannon, the mastermind of Breitbart News and Trump's operational brains is obsessed with military strategy and is no doubt capable of drawing his enemies into a suicide mission. The considerations that I'm presenting here do not amount to the straw man that windows are more valuable than lives. The considerations continue to be the ability to draw the mass populace into the center of the resistance (which is absolutely necessary if the goal is to do more than shut down speeches) and looking at the propensity for agent provocateur intelligence infiltration. Being mindful of these considerations does not at all equate to siding with the fascists - I am certainly against them and open to the omnidirectional means in which to oppose them. I will give consideration to the advantages of selective property destruction and violent resistance and confrontation with a dose of calculated caution. 

To be clear, what victims of the state decide to do to defend their lives is totally out of my experience to evaluate. I've been shielded from the direct threats that targeted populations suffer. There is a time when self-defensive violence will become a necessity, not just for them but for all who are anti-authoritarians. Many will argue persuasively that we have already crossed into that realm. If that is the case, then the phase of revolutionary guerrilla warfare is hypothetically not far off. My internal question is where I how my own efforts should be directed.

Black Bloc, Wikipedia Commons

The other challenge of commitments when considering schools of anarchism are certain unwavering pursuits of economic models that I find ethically flawed in practice (at least as far as we can gauge them based on their partial implementations under government control). I just can’t see dying on the sword for the ideals of capitalism or communism. Neither represent a morality I can fully defend. The words themselves are poisoned beyond recall due to their inseparable associations with totalitarian and imperialist empires. The extremes that the communist or the capitalist will go to fix reality into a century old economic model is baffling for a group that prides itself on rebellion toward tradition. 

The concepts of voluntary market exchanges, free of government distortion on the one hand and robust mutual aid societies committed to social welfare, free of the state on the other are equally redeemable – sans all the corrupted baggage that the –isms bring along. Quite a number of stimulating thought experiments exist across the spectrum of anarchist thought. I happen to care about the environment so I pay attention to what geo-libertarians say. I care about woman’s rights, so I look to the feminist anarchists.

The fatiguing nature of inner-anarchist debates is the intellectual wrestling for superiority that is gained more from semantics than from practical demonstration. Two interesting conceptual developments that grew out of the friction of competing anarchist factions were movements called anarchism without adjectives and panarchism. Both ideals set off to amend and reach compromises in regards to the ultimate social or economic model to be executed in the event that a stateless society had been reached. This approach agrees with one of the great insights of Robert Anton Wilson when he claimed that reality was plural and mutable.

The very sensible and potent description of the historical impetus for the without adjectives movement is as follows:  
“The originators of the expression were Cuban-born Fernando Tarrida del Mármol and Ricardo Mella, who were troubled by the bitter debates between mutualist, individualists, and communist anarchists in the 1880s. Their use of the phrase anarchism without adjectives was an attempt to show greater tolerance between anarchist tendencies and to be clear that anarchists should not impose a preconceived economic plan on anyone—even in theory. Anarchists without adjectives tended either to reject all particular anarchist economic models as faulty, or take a pluralist position of embracing them all to a limited degree in order that they may keep one another in check.” - Wikipedia  

Taken in a different direction, the panarchist model put forth by Belgian political economist, Paul Émile de Puydt, allows all hyphens to exist simultaneously in free competition. By simply registering under any political affiliation made available, an individual could live anywhere but only pay into the model of governance they freely choose. if they were unhappy with the federation, they were free to transfer membership, if not immediately, possibly under a minimum one-year contract agreement. One federation could operate as a syndicalist, another capitalist, another collectivist. This open economic and social model competition was theorized to allow truly efficient, beneficial and functional systems to flourish while the lousy ones died off. Only under such conditions would all the curiosities and debating be put to the real test and to be settled once and for all.

"But I think government should be treated like religion, everyone should be able to pick the kind they like. Only it should be contractual not obligatory. I wouldn't mind paying tax money to a local association to maintain a police force, as long as we need one. But I hate like hell paying taxes to help the US government build more nuclear missiles to blow up more people I don't even know and don't think I'd hate them if I did know them."  Robert Anton Wilson 
Robert Anton Wilson
What appeals to me in both of the above models is the agreeable and tolerant nature they bring to bare. On the face of them lies a humble admission that pencils should not be down in terms of proposing or attempting a variety of economic or community theories. Anti-authoritarianism could flourish under many orientations granted that they are all entered upon voluntarily. Even communist societies are agreeable under those terms. Hell, if 5,000 people chose to create a self-imposed monarchy, what business is it of mine?

The arrogance in asserting that there exists one true and righteous societal model that should be imposed monolithically over culture offends my open-minded spirit. It's exactly what we suffer under now. Not to mention the unscientific presumption of theory as undisputed fact. A theory on paper only achieves perfection in the confines of the imagination, free of practical scrutability.

The predictable argument that can be hurled back at me is that anti-authoritarianism is implicitly the property of unadulterated anarchism. The following passage lays down a broad explanation of anti-authoritarianism in action that frees the term up for broader usage. 
“Anti-authoritarians question whether an authority is a legitimate one before taking that authority seriously. Evaluating the legitimacy of authorities includes assessing whether or not authorities actually know what they are talking about, are honest, and care about those people who are respecting their authority. And when anti-authoritarians assess an authority to be illegitimate, they challenge and resist that authority—sometimes aggressively and sometimes passive-aggressively, sometimes wisely and sometimes not.” – Why Anti-Authoritarians are Diagnosed as Mentally Ill, Bruce Levine, PhD  
Based on the passage above, I would argue that the distrust and questioning of authority figures can occur in the mind of any individual, even a committed Republican or Democrat. I see it as an impulse, a tendency and in my case, a fully flourished philosophical worldview that has thick applications instead of thin limitations. Back when Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich were in Congress, you could count on their integrity to defend civil liberties and oppose war. They openly thwarted and threw wrenches into the cogs of authority for decades from the inside. They were both members of establishment parties and yet they acted on behalf of anti-authoritarian causes. Many anarchists of today go their start campaigning for the Ron Paul presidencies. So, forgive me if I have a hard time accepting that progress towards liberty can never occur within the confines of politics. To exploit a political tactic is not the same as being blindly devoted to or in explicit agreement with the current system of bureaucracy. 

Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul

It is always applicable to also think of anti-authoritarianism as a movable grid from which to view other structures of dogma and dominance, entrenched academia or organized religion for instance. Referring back to the Levine quote, to hold skeptical views of authority doesn’t mean that the professor or priest will always be wrong. It’s the footing of a questioning mind as opposed to the blindly obedient mind that is important. Some people have gained a position of an intellectual or creative authority in an area of study by legitimate means. Those with earned knowledge and credentials should be respected and sought out. What makes that form of deference acceptable is  the basis of it is non-binding and represents a voluntary decision. A scientist or artist can’t put me in a cell over a disagreement or by my refusing to live under their dictates. If I choose to defer to their experiential authority it is be free choice out of decidedly good sense. 

All things considered, the only self-identifier I can wear that fits with ease and comfort, is anti-authoritarian. To friends and allies working under a clear and distinct banner of affiliation, I support you and thank you for your efforts. I know they are meaningful and productive in their own right. I choose to aid groups across the spectrum from the ACLU, to anarchist educational and action pubs, to the upstart Pirate Party. If you don’t see the sense in that I beg your pardon. From where I stand it’s the only thing that is sensible for my individual commitments.

There exists an encroaching authority all around us. Authorities that carry the force of oppression and violence should be opposed and fought back by all available means. Right now under an alt-right inspired Trump administration, I would say those of us who favor cultural diversity, peace and self-ownership face a clear and present danger. Clearly Muslims, racial minorities and LGBTQIA communities will bear the huge brunt of this cultural crackdown. 

By appearances the intimidation and harassment won’t have to come just from legislation but from the random acts of emboldened supremacists and nationalists who feel as if they’ve won the right to do so. What actions those communities take to defend their liberties is not for an outsider to dictate. I can only hope for actions that create true change and not the product of an elaborate entrapment.

We are in the emergency room and the patient is dying on the table. Survival of the small liberty we still have to cling onto should be the order of the day. I advocate protecting the most vulnerable against tyranny by a multitude of means even when those means appear to slightly compromise the purity of your ideology. Keeping in mind an idealistic future world, perfect in it’s shinning moral consistency and always worth making strides towards. What marks a slight compromise over a fatal compromise is a conclusion only an individual can square for themselves. 

5 comments:

  1. I like the picture of Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich. The way they both stood steadfastly in favor of peace and civil liberties, regardless of their other differences, inspires a hope in me that alliances are possible.

    Milo Yiannopoulos is "insightful"? I think you mean "inciteful."

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  2. Excellent post! As another non-authoritarian I heartily agree.

    I think in these peculiar times any reversal of the increasing totality has to be celebrated.

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  3. Really the blogging is spreading its wings rapidly. Your write up is a fine example of it. support for anti-social behaviour

    ReplyDelete

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