Thank you, The Princess Bride, for providing me with one of my favorite quotes of all time. One whose implications I both enjoy and do my best to live by. It’s nostalgic and pertinent as a title to this post. Wunderbar!
Recently, my fiancée was telling me about a Facebook flame war she witnessed where one person had posted something political, had an opposing comment, and then another man had responded with an obviously satirical rebuttal. The original commenter took an affront to this and began spewing more political “truths” to which the satirist responded again. And once again the original commenter came back, but this time, he labeled the satirist as politically ignorant and obligatorily racist (it was, after all, an Obama argument) and qualified his remarks by saying he was not a Republican as one might think, but he is instead “an anarchist.”
I just rolled my eyes and chuckled at the guy. I knew his type if not him personally. So often, people use words like “anarchist” or “anarchy” to describe their political ideals or way of thinking without ever truly understanding what the word means. According to the Oxford English Dictionary’s primary definition, “anarchy” is defined as: “absence of government; a state of lawlessness due to the absence or inefficiency of the supreme power; political disorder.” Now don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that people have the right to hold any belief system and political ideology they want as long as it doesn’t impede one someone else’s, but I do think that people who claim to be “anarchists” do not fully understand the implications of the truly lawless society they advocate. It would truly be every man and woman for him or herself. If people were to band together, even for survival, there would innately be some sort of hierarchy within their ranks, which is—*gasp*—a form of government because they would be setting rules for one another’s behavior, even if they were as simple as “don’t kill and eat me while I’m asleep.” True lawlessness is the complete absence of any ruling structure—understood, courteous, national, personal, or anything in between.
To attain actual anarchy would be akin to actually being able to set up a true Communist state—there is an implication in the definition which limits its practical application from ever occurring due to inherent unpredictable variation in human nature and behavior. In other words: it works on paper, but not in real life.
Most people who say they would like a state of anarchy to exist in the world have not really thought it through. Generally, people who throw around buzz words so brazenly are not concerned with the nuances of their definition vs. their popular use (hence why they’d be buzz words instead of accepted terminology). I think that such people as this Facebook “anarchist” would actually best be described as disestablishmentarians—those who wish for the current power structure to fail and be replaced by something more suitable to their political ideals. But I doubt that such self-proclaimed radicals as those who would so haphazardly dub themselves “anarchists” would take the time to understand the subtle uses of the words.
Moral of the story: look it up before spouting off.