Monday, March 29, 2010

Anarchism = Extreme Democracy

On my math education blog* I just thought about calling myself an anarchist, and decided not to mention it. Why? Have I actually put myself in the closet? Well, I'm not sure, but I do know that most folks have no idea what the word means. It's kind of like if you said you were a lesbian in a conventional sort of gathering in the 50's. People would be puzzled and think you were a bit nutso.

In most people's minds, I think it goes like this: anarchist = bomb thrower = terrorist. Maybe I should make a pin, and a bumper sticker, etc, saying: Anarchism = Extreme Democracy.

Here's the definition of anarchism at
1. a doctrine urging the abolition of government or governmental restraint as the indispensable condition for full social and political liberty.
2. the methods or practices of anarchists, as the use of violence to undermine government.
Oh yeah, and anarchy, that means chaos, right? No... Let's look at the roots. an-arch-y. an is a negation. arch is in monarch, which means one ruler. So anarchy is no ruler. Hmm, that does not equal chaos in my mind... 

I think part of the p.r. problem for this idea (anarchy, anarchism, anarchist) is that it's defined in the negative. I think of it now as connected to my paganism. That's my spiritual direction (call it religion if you want, but it's different - there's no One Right Way), and anarchism is my philosophy of social organization (you can't really call it government, can you?). They go together because they're both about equality in some sense, about taking our direction from our inner moral compass.
Why is it a problem for a word to be defined in a negative sense? Well, anarchism is a hard concept for most people to wrap their heads around. The word should give them a picture, or a direction, or something more than 'not this'. Also I've read that, when you're training a dog, you need to use positive commands. If you say "don't jump!" mostly the dog just hears the jump part. Our subconscious works the same way.  If you're trying to change a habit, it's important to phrase your thoughts in the positive. (Instead of telling myself to stop biting my nails, I could try to visualize how great it would be to have good looking fingers.)

So I'll mention extreme democracy on the other blog, and I think that will send the message I'm trying to send better than 'anarchist' would.

*Math Mama Writes, which has had over 17,000 visitors. This blog is climbing over 500.

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