Thursday, November 3, 2011

Come Join Me in Reality

I have a lot of problems with SE and the ideas on it, but none are more fundamental than my overall belief that the ideas presented here lack any basis in reality.

Whenever I read anything discussing Anarchy, I can’t help but think of Plato’s Republic. By most standards, Plato was a bright guy, but he was ultimately a fool. His student Aristotle realized this, and I suspect Plato’s teacher, Socrates, knew this as well.

Socrates wrote nothing down, or at least nothing he wrote survived or is mentioned in any of the small percentage of works that did survive antiquity (of which we estimate only a small, infinitesimal amount still exist, though we will probably never know precisely how much is lost, since… well… it’s gone). Luckily, Plato wrote some of the ideas of Socrates down, as well as attributed some of Plato’s own ideas to Socrates. One that we can be relatively sure was actually Socrates’ idea was his view on knowledge, or epistemology.

“I only know that I know nothing.” Plato, it seems, ultimately disagreed, and he felt that through logic and reason, we could know thing. Basically, just through thought alone, we could understand the world.

Aristotle took a different approach. He more or less helped popularize observation as a means of knowledge. While he is far from being an empiricist in the modern sense of the word, his work in biology was based on dissection, and his habit of consulting many sources and listing many possible explanations helped set the stage for what we now call “Science.”

In my opinion, Plato’s epistemology was bullshit . Plato did not believe in observing. He believed all knowledge was already present in the mind, a remnant from past life experiences when we had been in the world of forms, an abstract realm of perfection where souls go before being reincarnated. Plato believed in a process called “Anamnesis,” which literally means “unforgetting.” To simplify it for English, where double negatives are awkward, it would simply be “remembering.”

Plato believes that when you “learn,” you are actually recalling forgotten knowledge that was already inside you. He “demonstrates” this in his didactic work, “Meno,” where an uneducated slave is said to grasp complex trigonometry with little effort after just a bit of goading from Socrates (a favorite character in Plato’s works… whenever he wants to put weight behind an idea, he just has Socrates say it).

So, what does this have to do with SE? I’m getting to that, be patient. If I have to watch a bunch of idiotic videos full of morons with nothing intelligent to say or add to my life, you can sit through some history of philosophy so that you might understand the background of why I think the way I do. There’s nothing I can do about YouTube being full of blowhard armchair philosophers and people getting hit in the nuts, not videos with redeeming educational value. Besides, reading a computer screen is bad for your eyes, and I hope you all go blind someday (which is the ultimate goal of my long posts).

Now that I have endeared you all to me and gotten you on my side, I can explain how The Republic figures into SE. Plato spent a lot of time sitting around and thinking, which to him was a noble activity. He envisioned the best ruler to be a philosopher king… maybe someone much like himself… what a coincidence. The problem is, he didn’t spend much time in the real world.

He travelled, sure, and he talked with people, definitely, but he lived in a bubble of nobility (with a notable exception being when he was briefly imprisoned). He did not figure the experiences of the average person into his ideology or politics, and he wasn’t one to pragmatically adopt ideas that other people had discovered which worked better than his own.

In The Republic, Plato expressly says that the leader of a people should busy himself in thought, and focus not on Earthly matters, but on the higher, more abstract concepts, for it was these which Plato imagined to contain the most truth. After all, our psyche had seen perfection before the soul transmigrated into its current body, and our eyes and ears are flawed sensory organs, so the best knowledge should come from inside of us, not from the outside world.

In some ways, Plato would be very proud of anarchists. Despite all evidence to the contrary, despite the suffering and death that occurs in the absence of a government, anarchists cling to their abstract ideals. Of course, anyone who has read Plato knows he would generally be appalled at anarchy. Plato didn’t even like democracy, for he saw the average person to be a fool, and a democracy as rule by the foolish. Perhaps in some ways, he was right, but he was ultimately wrong: democracy is better than a monarchy.

In fact, Plato actually linked democracy to anarchy, saying they are one in the same, and that each inevitably led to tyranny. To some extent, he’s correct. Anarchy will always be nothing but a power vacuum waiting for sociopathic individuals to abuse, while democracy will devolve into tyranny unless the voters are adequately knowledgeable (which is probably why the tyrants in Washington love to cut education spending: stupid people are easier to fool).

Plato believed only a few were fit to rule, and I suspect that he may be right here, too. Whereas Plato believes in making the ideal leaders through education, I would prefer instead to abandon any system which pre-supposes kingly lineage and instead focus not on making leaders great, but in finding the great leaders among us and placing them not on a pedestal, but in a position of clearly and plainly limited power.

When I see people on SE go on and on about getting rid of the police or ending welfare, I have to wonder why anarchists are so interested in creating problems when they haven’t bothered to solve a single dilemma with their “solutions.” I can’t help but dwell on how this thought experiment known as anarchism only works in the minds of anarchists.

Sometimes I wish there was a place in this world where anarchists could point to and say, “There, that place practices anarchy,” and we could analyze what was happening. The problem is, all anarchist societies are simply not good enough for anarchists, because they just don’t work as well here in reality as it does (or “should”) in the minds of anarchists… so there are literally no true Scotsmen.

It’s strange, really, because no anarchist wants to discuss Somalia or lawless regions of Pakistan… probably because there’s no government to blame for all the problems they have, and yet there are bigger problems in the absence of “the state” than there is in nearly any nation on Earth. If you can’t find feasible examples of anarchism, then at least explain why the anarchies which have failed are not working instead of obsessing about every little thing that happens elsewhere and finding some way to scapegoat “the state” for it. When there is no state to blame, how does one account for the brutal failures of every anarchy in history?

So, come join me in the real world, where we have to deal with things like crime and the poor and the disabled. Lay out concrete plans that do not severely victimize those who are already slipping through the cracks in the current system. It sometimes seems anarchy seeks only to silence victims of the state by drowning them out with the victims of anarchy.

You have convinced me we aren’t living in a perfect system (and I think all SE readers are on board with the idea that America isn’t perfect, nor is any other nation). There’s no use in bothering with that point anymore, especially when the content veers ridiculously into the realm of hyperbole. It’s time to stop worrying about anecdotal problems and start coming up with actual, real-world solutions.

Pointing out that a cop tased or beat someone and using that as justification for disbanding the nation’s police departments makes about as much sense as copying and pasting a story about a boy being shot and saying that all guns ought to be banned. It makes no fucking sense, and it’s lazy. I thought anarchist bloggers were quiet intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, but it appears that they’re little more than Fox News without a budget.

Obviously, everyone has the right to make any complaint they want, and I’m not suggesting that one should just ignore problems. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s no big deal if people on SE are whiners, but with every passing post that is filled with bitching and devoid of new ideas, I lose respect for anarchism.

Which is strange, because I already have no respect for anarchism. Is it possible to have negative respect? Let’s find out together, shall we?

[Feel free to ignore the ideas presented in my post and instead focus on the mean, nasty things I said… you poor, poor victims of the mean statist… or you could literally cause me to fall over dead of a heart attack and instead discuss some ideas presented here.]

4 comments:

  1. The stoutness of your convictions is just the flip side of the wispiness of your reasoning and rhetoric skills.

    Bret beat the straw-man... again!

    What is that, the 23d time now, Bret?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Uh sure buddy. Keep repeating to yourself that Anarchism has never worked and never solved any social problem despite the copious historical evidence. If you repeat it enough times you might eventually believe it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Facetious comments, and no evidence... how I love anarchists.

    ReplyDelete

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