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If we typify people according to the extremes, there are only two kind of people. Those who justify the use of agression and those who don’t.

Notice that I said “according to extremes”. In real life people are often to be found on a scale somewhere in between these two extremes.

However something strange occurs when people are asked to start thinking about this. Whenever I talk to people about this, I observe one of two reactions: either they drift in the direction of either end, or they shy away from taking a stance. In the last case they often seem to want to drift towards non-violence but feel conflicted because they also feel that some level of violence is necessary.

How about you? Do you think that you need “some level” of agression?

Asked directly, most people will respond with ‘no’. Agression is not necessary, they would never initiate violence. But things are not always as easy as they look. How about agression that is performed in your name? Do you allow agression to be used in your name? I.e. when you don’t use agression yourself, do you allow somebody else to use agression because you “need” them to?

Is there anybody who is using agression in your name or with your permission? Yes there is: your government.

Every form of government ultimately relies on agression to enforce its policies. Without the threat of violence the government would have no ‘authority’. Since governments don’t like competition, they even claim the monopoly on the use of agression. While not everything the government does or edicts must be backed by the thread of violence, without it all governments would collapse. For example their income would drop to zero if taxes would not be enforced.

When I bring this argument, there are usually two types of reaction: I did not choose this government, and (aghast) “but without a government?, that would be anarchy!”

True, nobody ever votes the government that is put in place. There are many factors at work in an election and it is virtually impossible to have exactly the government you wanted. But participating in an election is a way of confirming that the election is valid instrument to choose a government. I.e. by participating, we implicitly accept its outcome: the new government. (Note: People who say “if you don’t vote you don’t get to complain” have it exactly backwards. If we vote, we cannot complain because we the accept the election as a valid process.)

And also true: Without a government, there would be anarchy. However anarchy does not stand for chaos. The whole association of anarchy with chaos is part of an image created by the media/politics. In fact the word anarchy simply means “without rulers”. But as many anarchists would argue: without rulers does not mean without rule. Except that in an anarchy the rules would be voluntary and not imposed by a government. However, these rules would be just as binding -more so perhaps- as government enforced rules. How so? well, that should be subject of another post. This one is already getting quite long.

Privately most people don’t want to use agression, they adhere to the non-agression principle even without knowning about it. The step to anarchy is for most people a bridge too far. And ultimately the question “Is agression necessary?” is the same as “Is government necessary?”.

And truth be said: I have not found a definite answer yet. I do reject the use of agression, but I am not sure if society would be able to handle the absence of a government just yet. My hope is that more and more people will consciously embrace the non-agression principle. And therefore reject the use of force, even by governments. Once enough people do so, governments will cease to exists because they no longer have the moral support from society. And by that time, society will be able to handle this.

PS: An analogy… if we were to pick up 40 random people from the street and put them in a bus, then most of them would not want to be in that bus. Still, simply removing the driver at 80mph would not be a good idea.


Originally posted at: 2016-11-29
Last modified on: 2016-11-29