Sunday, May 20, 2012
That picture of a bearded gentleman is Peter Kropotkin, the subject of today's post
ON PETER KROPOTKIN from murph
I finally got the formatting to look right. Thanks Hotsprings.
I mentioned some time ago that I was delving into Kropotkin’s writings. His stuff is not something to breeze through with understanding and is taking me some time to absorb his concepts. Had a friend mention to me that Kropotkin was excellent at putting him to sleep. I mentioned back that I felt the same way about Eckhart Tolle.
I think it behooves us to ask some questions; what is the legitimate function of government, and how powerful should it be?
We currently have a majority of our citizens that are totally dependent upon the government to enable them to live, dependent upon that body. Is this a legitimate function of government? If you are of a more politically liberal point of view, yes it is. Some of the arguments for this are hard to refute. What do we do with citizens that for various reasons cannot support themselves, temporarily or permanently? Should the government have the mandate to confiscate fruit of an individuals labor to support someone else?
Of course, without government-backed efforts, we would not have our highway system, most universities, most research labs, and stifled advanced research. Without government backing, our lives would mostly be at a much lower “standard of living”.
All of which evades the point. Is it legitimate for a government, in a moral or even a ethical sense, to forcefully confiscate money from you for projects that you may not approve of? Should the government have the ability to force you into military service for wars that have an agenda we care little about? I am using this in a broad sense. A government that creates the financial situation for which the only way a young man can get 3 hots and a cot and must join the military is still confiscating your life. Of course, that young man in actuality has a choice, between bad and maybe a worse situation.
From a political view, Jesus was an anarchist. Your only loyalty was to God.
Kropotkin is what I would call a fundamental anarchist in that whatever government is formed has to be with the agreement of the population involved and if it becomes intrusive or advocating actions that people can’t stand, it is dissolved.
Kropotkin and modern anarchists insist that human relations should all be voluntary right from the start. Kropotkin asserted that people will act morally from an innate need for the relationships.
One of the best futuristic novels (IMO) that speculates on what an anarchistic society would look like is “The Probability Broach” by L. Neil Smith.
In the modern anarchistic thought, I have put this in the blog before.
YOU MAY ALREADY BE AN ANARCHIST
It’s true. If your idea of healthy human relations is a dinner with friends, where everyone enjoys everyone else’s company, responsibilities are divided up voluntarily and informally, and no one gives order or sells anything, then you are an anarchist, plain and simple. The only question that remains is how you can arrange for more of your interactions to resemble this model.
Whenever you act without waiting for instructions or official permission, you are an anarchist. Any time you bypass a ridiculous regulation when no one’s looking, you are an anarchist. If you don’t trust the government, the school system, Hollywood, or the management to know better than you when it comes to things that affect your life, that’s anarchism, too. And you are especially an anarchist when you come up with your own ideas and initiatives and solutions.
As you can see, it’s anarchism that keeps things working and life interesting. If we waited for authorities and specialists and technicians to take care of everything, we would not only be in a world of trouble, but dreadfully bored—and boring—too boot. Today we live in that world of (dreadfully boring!) trouble precisely to the extent that we abdicate responsibility and control.
Anarchism is naturally present in every healthy human being. It isn’t necessarily about throwing bombs or wearing black masks, though you may have seen that on television; (Do you believe everything you see on television? That’s not anarchist!). The root of anarchism is the simple impulse to DO IT YOURSELF; everything else follows from this.
Here is an interesting take on anarchism and the early Jews; http://www.counterpunch.org/2005/03/29/the-subversive-commandments/
In the previous post, I mentioned one aspect of Kropotkin’s concern about biological survival of a species. He asserted that it was only through cooperation would a thinking species survive. That survival of the fittest only pertained to individuals, not to a group.
Kropotkin’s greatest moral attribute of humans is the dictate of “treating other as you would be treated, under similar circumstances”. He further states;
“We all love moral strength, we all despise moral weakness and cowardice. Every moment our looks and words show the repugnance we feel towards cowardice, deceit, intrigue, want of moral courage. We betray our disgust, even when under the influence of a worldly education we try to hide our contempt beneath those lying appearances which will vanish as equal relations are established among us”. Sounds pretty egalitarian to me.
Kropotkin is a great believer in equality, across the board and respect for the individual. He does not support the mutilating of an individual in the name of some moralistic ideal.
Kropotkin was born in 1842, and makes many observations to his contemporary society. I find it interesting that what we bitch about today, he was bitching about back in the late 1800’s; Hypocrisy, deceit, wars, inequality, lies, backstabbing, and a general restriction on individual freedom. He was deeply concerned with the hierarchy of authority and its abuses. He goes to great length to demonstrate the morality of an anarchist system of social organization. He sometimes becomes rather bitter with religion, pointing out the hypocrisy of that social force and its abuse of hierarchy.
I have much to go in reading Kropotkin’s essays and dissertations. But so far, he was a man of his times and just as applicable in today’s world, and for me, a very interesting man to learn about. There are a few questions that have come up concerning his writings, but maybe they will be answered as I plow through his stuff. I suspect that his influence today will be similar to his time, a small but vocal adherents to his ideas.
It appears obvious to me that a strong central state will always become corrupt and self-serving, always, at least so history teaches us. Central states always seek control over everything that can be controlled. Their dissolution may take some time, but dissolution always occurs. Central states, always, are run by a very small minority of elites that always have an agenda that is self-serving. Even during the formation of this country and its constitution, which was rather radical at the time, the folks writing the document were self-serving, looking ahead by generations for a continuation of elitist control.
It sure appears to me that Kropotkin’s contention that only an anarchistic society can actually survive over the long term at the benefit of all of its citizens with maximum freedom. This would necessitate that each person is willing to take responsibility for their actions and that only freely accepted associations would be the norm. That societies are prone to grant power to the few in a hierarchy because of the promises they make to grab power keeps us from having a free society. If a more anarchistic society is ever to become a reality, there will be great pain within the society to form it because of this dependency. The present attitude of populations across the globe, and its dependency on a strong central government, does not bode well for such a change. However, folks have to make a decision as to which causes more harm and hardship over time. It is the same with our present economic situation. The pain that would have to be endured by the population to cure what ails us economically is unacceptable to most folks. But, it will come, it always does.