Seeing as I found myself home alone dog-sitting during the remnants of the Christmas holidays, our hospitable neighbour and fine cook invited me over to dine with a group of her friends last night, even though I do not have a beard.
What she did not mention was that this group of friends formed part of a movement. Indeed, the first I was aware was when I overheard the word ‘movement’ mentioned and seeing as I had been embroiled in another conversation, I asked just what movement was being talked about – ‘We’re a group of anarchists’, came the somewhat unexpected reply from the artist-anarchist sitting to my right.
Interesting, I thought, as I had never met someone who was prepared to admit to being a practising anarchist. Italy, though, is a fun and varied place which is littered with pockets of activists from just about all political persuasions. So, you may be wondering, how was this bunch of extremists? And did I escape alive?
The answer to the first question, and I’m sorry if I disappoint you, was that they were a pretty normal bunch, aside from the fact that they spent quite a sizeable chunk of the sauerkraut with luganiga* sausage, and cassoeula* fuelled evening chatting about how to put the world to rights. Obviously by introducing a good dose of anarchism. Oh, and seeing as I’m writing this, you’ll be able to deduce the answer to the second question.
That the monarchy had been removed from Italy was felt to have been a good thing, and the emergence of the republic was considered to have been even better, however Italy, it was concluded was still quite a way away from the introduction of anarchism. Personally, I’d say that Italians, with their obvious dislike of rules and authority are a pretty anarchic bunch already.
Since I did not know a fat lot about the ways of anarchism, I asked, and the artist-anarchist explained what their form of anarchism was all about.
In simple terms these people wanted to be able to create their own rules, and live by them. Now for me, establishing rules means creating a form of authority, and when I made this observation I was told I was wrong in that these so called rules were not a manifestation of authority. At this point I drunk some wine and decided not to push my point. There was no reason to ruin a perfectly pleasant evening by engaging in a hot debate into whether the kind of anarchism this movement adhered to really was anarchism. However, reading a little more about anarchism, anarchists are not really against authority as such, but just ‘rulers’ – ie those imposing their authority on others. In this sense, ‘those’ refers to governments, kings or queens and other ruling individuals or bodies.
Now while I could be wrong, I believe that most people think that anarchism is a total rejection of all forms of authority, although that is not strictly true according to the theory.
Interesting, I’d never really looked into anarchism in detail before. An odd collateral effect of a dinner party! Indeed, out of curiosity, something of which I have never been short of, and after several glasses of Slijvovica prune grappa from the former Czech republic, once back home I hopped over to Wikipedia to see what it had to say on the subject of anarchism.
Wikipedia says quite a lot, so much in fact that I am now unsure as to which flavour of anarchism the people I met last night adhere. Possibly they could be described as Egoist anarchists, however many of these people were married and sported wedding rings. This was odd because I was told that marriage was nothing more than an example of the Roman Catholic Church exerting its authority. A true anarchist would never marry, although she or he might form a family unit which would be guided by its own internal rules, but there would be no authoritarian head of the household.
The ‘isms’ Don’t Work
That this bunch of anarchists were not as anarchistic as they could have been is an example that like many socio-political philosophies, anarchism faces one single, and for the moment, insurmountable obstacle – human nature.
History is strewn with attempts to implement various socio-political ‘isms’, all of which seem to have one aspect in common – failure. Either they have descended into totalitarianism, like communism and fascism, or have simply petered out like socialism. Even the ‘ism’ which fits so well with human nature, capitalism, is not without its problems, and the latest world economic crisis is an example of capitalism not really working.
Each of these ‘isms’ seems to have one other thing in common too – they fail in the face of the basic and overwhelming human desire for power and money. We are animals, no more, no less. And like animals we seem to need leaders, and leaders become so through the manifestation of power and beauty. The strongest and most vicious lion heads a pride, the most attractive men or women, like the male peacock with the most eye-catching tail feathers, have no problem procreating, and thus creating dynasties. Indeed, many parallels can be draw between the human and animal universes if you think about it a little.
Power throughout history always seems to have been attained through a mixture of violence, either literal or psychological, skulduggery and ruthlessness. It’s the old Darwinian theory of natural selection from which one Herbert Spencer coined the phrase ‘the survival of the fittest’.
As to which is the best ‘ism’ to guide us all, I have no idea, but then nobody else seems to have a real idea either.
No Beard, No Anarchist
Still, one thing is certain after this thought provoking and tasty evening in the company of a very nice bunch of anarchists: this here blogger cannot become part of the anarchist movement until he grows a beard, for I was the only male at this little get-together not sporting one.
Should I grow a beard so I can enter the anarchist movement? I don’t know, but maybe growing a beard could become one of my New Year’s resolutions. Then again, I could simply go the whole hog and become a Utopian.
Luganiga sausage is a sausage of ancient Roman origin, which is similar to ‘cotechino’ , and cassoeula is a traditional Milan/Lombardy dish of verza cabbage and pork. While I really like cassoeula, I am not too keen on Luganiga.
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