One of my heroes, Carl Watner, editor of The Voluntaryist, has posted an essay at Voluntaryist.com titled Without Firing A Single Shot: Voluntaryist Resistance and Societal Defense. This essay is one of those eye-opening, "I never thought of it that way!" discourses that come along all too rarely. In the essay, Watner makes the case for voluntaryist resistance, not as a viable alternative to violent resistance, but as the only viable hope for reducing violence in our society. As with the entire voluntaryist concept, one of the strengths of these ideas is that each individual can apply them to their lives now, i.e. it does not require some massive group participation to be effective. We can each resolve to use and demonstrate voluntary resistance in our individual lives. If others choose to join us, that's wonderful, but the participation of others is not required.
Perhaps the greatest attribute required to implement voluntaryist resistance in life is stubborness.
|[N]onviolent struggle is rooted in a deep human propensity (also evidenced in many domesticated animals) to be stubborn, to persist in doing what has been forbidden, and to refuse to do what has been ordered. As we all know, this stubborn streak is present in children: they refuse to eat or do as they are told, or engage in delaying tactics. Adults, too, can be recalcitrant, but fortunately human stubbornness can be directed toward admirable goals. We can cooperate with other human beings to resist what we collectively view as evil or wrongdoing. Nonviolent struggle or voluntaryist resistance is simply the widespread societal application of this obdurate trait for social, economic, or anti-political purposes.|
Central to the idea of voluntaryist resistance is the voluntaryist principle that one cannot be ruled without one's cooperation.
|Revolutionary implications stem from the simple voluntaryist insight that no ruler exists without the cooperation and/or acquiescence of the majority of his or her subjects to be ruled. One might say that nonviolence is "the political equivalent of the atomic bomb." To call nonviolent resistance "passive" or "for sissies" is to totally misunderstand its import. As Hannah Arrendt pointed out, the use of nonviolent resistance is one of the most active and efficient ways of action ever devised by human beings because it cannot be countered by fighting. Only mass slaughter will assure the violent opponent an ultimate victory, but even then "the victor is defeated, cheated of his prize, since nobody can rule over dead" people. Furthermore, civilian resistance demands widespread unity of opinion among the population, and careful research and strategic planning; its adoption must be preceded by widespread preparation and training; and its execution calls for considerable courage and discipline. Could an army be successful if its soldiers had no training? Nonviolent resistance is no different in this regard."|
Watner examines various examples and proponents of voluntaryist resistance and pacifism throughout history. He sums up the essay as follows:
"Endure unto the end, but violence to no man"
|The central lesson here is that even when threatened by government violence and government weapons, there is still that something which governments cannot seize. No government, foreign or domestic, can obtain the voluntary compliance of the citizenry without their consent. The Nazis found this out much to their dismay in Berlin in February 1943. A protest lasting several days on Rosenstrasse, involving over|
600 women of mixed Jewish marriages, caused the Gestapo to release some 1500 prisoners. Some of those released had been scheduled to be shipped off to Auschwitz, and were the husbands of the protesting women. It was a novel experience for the Nazis to face unarmed men, women, and children offering nonviolent resistance.
Although the Berlin protesters were unharmed, the refusal to consent may be costly, dangerous, and even lead to death. Nevertheless the fact remains: Without the cooperation of the populace "maintaining power becomes costly or even impossible. All that is necessary to prevent" government domination "is to let the citizenry come to know its own strength. Or, in the timeless words of LaBoetie, 'I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces'."
Such a stance against a government who has thousands, if not millions of soldiers, and millions of dollars invested in the latest technological armaments may seem foolish, even insane. However as Leo Tolstoy noted, those who choose to resist "have only one thing, but that is the most powerful thing in the world - Truth." And in the truth of nonviolence we find the following pearls of wisdom: "[T]he prim[ary] human obligation is to act fearlessly and in accord with one's beliefs;
that one should withdraw cooperation from destructive institutions; that this should be done without violence ... ; that means are more important than ends; that crimes shouldn't be committed today for the sake of a better world tomorrow; that violence brutalizes the user as well as his victim; that the value of action lies in the direct benefit it brings society; that action is usually best aimed at one's immediate surroundings and only later at more distant goals; that winning state power" should be eschewed; that freedom begins with one's self because freedom is self-control; that freedom is oriented toward a love of truth; and that all power depends upon the consent of the governed.
I've read a lot of blog material recently discussing various factions among people that call themselves "libertarians." B.K. Marcus offers an excerpt from Leonard E. Read from The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty published in January, 1956 that rightfully argues that libertarians are neither right nor left of authoritarians. freeman, the libertarian critter clarifies the use of the term "left libertarian" often used to describe a fairly diverse range of libertarian ideals. Meanwhile, Upaya breaks down left libertarians into three primary groups: Geoists (or "Georgists"), Mutualists, and Agorists (or "Left-Rothbardians"). Upaya proposes a synthesis of these various factions to achieve some common goals, including anti-militarism, civil liberties, tax-shifting, opposition to state-capitalist institutions (WTO, IMF, etc.), support for land trusts, ending corporate welfare, ending barriers to mutual aid, building mutual aid institutions, political decentralism, self-management, independent unionism, citizen’s dividend (as alternative to welfare state), reclaiming the commons, human scale institutions, and alternative media.
Reading all this reminded me of something Karl Hess wrote in Libertarian Forum some 35 years ago:
|Libertarianism is a people's movement and a liberation movement. It seeks the sort of open, non-coercive society in which the people, the living, free, distinct people, may voluntarily associate, dis-associate, and, as they see fit, participate in the decisions affecting their lives. This means a truly free market in everything from ideas to idiosyncracies. It means people free collectively to organize the resources of their immediate community or individualistically to organize them; it means the freedom to have a community-based and supported judiciary where wanted, none where not, or private arbitration services where that is seen as most desirable. The same with police. The same with schools, hospitals, factories, farms, laboratories, parks, and pensions. Liberty means the right to shape your own institutions. It opposes the right of those institutions to shape you simply because of accreted power or gerontological status.|
I am encouraged when I find essays/comments/thoughts such as these. I don't know that such encouragement would have been possible before the weblog craze came along.
I have decided to end my brief, self-imposed retirement from the blogosphere to draw attention to Butler Shaffer's comments in the LewRockwell.com Blog regarding the use of the term "anarchy." The organization Iraq Body Count recently reported that an average of 34 civilians are being killed each day in Iraq. They go on to warn of the rising "anarchy" in Iraq. Shaffer rightly points out the misuse of the word "anarchy" in this case.
I have never understood how the consequences of an abundance of government can be equated with "anarchy." The Iraqi people are suffering under the presence - not the absence - of numerous governments, including the United States, Great Britain, and the puppet "Iraq" government itself. Furthermore, there have been some twenty-five non-United States governments participating as "coalition forces" against the Iraqis. The butchery that continues in Iraq is the product of the state, not of free men and women pursuing their respective self-interests.
What is occurring in Iraq is what was also taking place in Lebanon - where the specter of "anarchy" was also raised - namely, a multitude of political systems or groups competing with one another to become the recognized monopolist on the use of violence in that country. The bloody process by which governments subdue a population is "anarchy?" Does such twisted thinking not explain the destructive nature of our world?
Our society seems to be enamored with calling things that which they are not. Words like "liberty," "anarchy," and "freedom," just to name a few examples, have lost all meaning through their constant misuse.
The Ludwig von Mises Institute offers this short speech on conspiracy theories by one of my favorite anti-state columnists, Butler Shaffer. He dares to ask the question, "What role, if any, did the American political establishment play in creating, or at least having foreknowledge of, the events of 9/11?" He doesn't offer answers, mind you, but challenges us to have the moral backbone to pose such questions.
Voluntaryist.com features an excellent essay written by Peter Spotswood Dillard titled The Unconquered Remnant: The Hopis and Voluntaryism.
|Perched atop three mighty mesas in northeastern Arizona, the Hopi Indians have developed a peaceful, nonviolent, and anarchistic society that has endured for at least a millennium.|
Dillard quotes George Yamada's 1957 book The Great Resistance, A Hopi Anthology
|The Hopi knows it is not right to go about trying to change people who have religious beliefs that are different from their own, and he will not try to force them to follow the Hopi way of life. I would not try to force the young people of the white man to live and believe my way. I will not even force my own young people to be initiated into our religious societies. I will only ask them if they want to join or be initiated into them. If they say "no," it will be respected. This is the very basis of our life, we must not force other people to change their ways." |
The Hopis have long resisted efforts by various governments, including the United States, to claim jurisdiction over them. "We will not ask a white man, who came to us recently, for a piece of land that is already ours."
Furthermore, the Hopis adhere to the very basic principles, "You must not kill; you must love your neighbor as yourself."
I am often asked, usually more as a thinly-veiled form of criticism, why there has never been a sustained voluntaryist-oriented movement in all of history. Of course, I point out that there are probably thousands of such individual movements that have existed and continue to exist within individual adherents. This example of such principles on a larger scale and for such an extended period of time is, at the very least, heartening.
The big news here in Music City, USA the past couple of days has been the arrest of a number of members of the state congress on bribery and extortion charges. The FBI established a fake business named e-Cycle and approached certain members of the state legislature about pushing certain legislation that would be favorable to their business. In exchange, the FBI paid bribes to these upstanding members of our communities totalling $92,000. Primary among the recipients of the bribe money was state senator John Ford, one of my all-time favorite corrupt legislators. Ford's brother, Harold, was a long time U.S. Representative, as is Harold's son, Harold, Jr., today.
John Ford reeks of corruption, and he has for as long as he has been in office. He is notorious for his run-ins with various members of the media. He has always been one of those politicians that obviously thought they were above the law and void of any ethical values whatsoever. Now the FBI has videotape of him accepting a $10,000 bribe, half-jokingly talking about shooting someone if he finds out they are deceiving him, and outright making the smarmy claim, "Somebody could say that is corruption," as he accepts a bribe.
The fact that corruption exists in such a governing body is no surprise. The nature of government is such today that I suspect the majority of those that participate are corrupt. (Of course, I am a cynic.) What has amazed me is the reaction of some of the arrested's peers in the legislature. (Although I probably shouldn't be surprised.)
In yesterday's prayer to open the legislative session here in Nashville, Lt. Governor John Wilder prayed, "Money was being offered as bait to put somebody in jail. That's wrong, and that's not Your way." State Senator Roy Herron told a reporter Thursday "was like the day President Kennedy was shot, like 9/11. A day that scares us and scars us like few other days."
The FBI says the results of their investigation have still not been fully revealed. One can only assume there are several state legislators facing some sleepless nights and spending considerable time looking over their shoulders for federal agents.
I have been religiously reading Kevin Carson's wonderful Mutualist Blog. I find most every entry enlightening and fitting with my own ever-developing ideas. His latest entry dwells on the concept of self-treatment, and touches on the broader concepts of societal paternalization vs. self reliance. I absolutely love his idea of community-based cooperative healthcare:
|Imagine, for example, a cooperative clinic at the neighborhood level. It might be staffed mainly with nurse-practitioners or the sort of "barefoot doctors" mentioned above. They could treat most traumas and ordinary infectious diseases themselves, with several neighborhood clinics together having an MD on retainer for more serious referrals. They could rely entirely on generic drugs, at least when they were virtually as good as the patented "me too" stuff; possibly with the option to buy more expensive, non-covered stuff with your own money. Their standard of practice would focus much more heavily on preventive medicine, nutrition, etc., which would be cheap for members of the cooperative who didn't have to pay the cost of an expensive office visit to an MD for such service. Their service model might look much more like something designed by, say, Dr. Andrew Weil. One of the terms of membership at standard rates might be signing a waiver of most expensive, legally-driven CYA testing. For members of such a cooperative, the cost of medical treatment in real dollars might be as low as it was several decades ago. No doubt many upper middle class people might prefer a healthcare plan with more frills, catastrophic care, etc. But for the 40 million or so who are presently uninsured, it'd be a pretty damned good deal.|
Carson goes on to address the increased calls for government-provided healthcare:
|I object strenuously to those who see a single-payer system, or a government-controlled delivery system like the UK's National Health, as the solution. I'd like to give those who talk about healthcare being a "right" the benefit of the doubt, and assume they just don't understand the implications of what they're saying. But when you talk about education, healthcare, or anything else being a "right," what that means in practice is that you get it in the (rationed) amount and form the State wants you to have, and buying it in the form you want becomes much more difficult (if not criminalized). It means the providers of the service will be cartelized, and that the provision of the service will be regulated according to their professional culture and institutional mindset.|
Making something a "right" that requires labor to produce also carries another implication: slavery. Nobody is born with a "right" to somebody else's labor-product: as Lilburne said, nobody is born with a saddle on his back, and nobody is born booted and spurred to ride him.
I also liked one comment made in response to Carson's entry:
|...the system in the US is "sickness care" -- it has nothing at all to do with maintaining good health...|
The "barefoot doctors" of China were allegedly paid by patients as long as people stayed healthy. When sickness struck, payment stopped until the patient was well again.
That is a "health care" system.