You are already part of something larger than yourself

I share b psycho's opinion of the gooey flaghumper sentimentality surrounding service to the state. Individualists typically cringe at the idea of "being part of something larger than yourself". B psycho points out how the state co-opts participation in society, with people making the typical "error of portraying any sense of civic mindedness as inherently meaning government involvement & allegiance" (in other words, there's more to a meaningful life than being part of just anything - one needs taste, standards, decency). Of course, I'm very interested in this form of institutional identity that we find so alluring.

But it occurs to me: you are already part of something larger than yourself. That "something larger" may be mysterious and not well understood. It may require you to look for it. It may not be coercively organized or neatly regimented somethings in which you participate. It may not be what you expect. But your very existence is an identity within a larger identity. The distinctions we make between my body and yours, my country and yours, this planet and the rest of the universe - are all arbitrary in the final analysis. Where my skin ends and the air surrounding me begins has no objective significance.

Collective action is natural because it recognizes that agency is informed by more than an individual's conscious ego. We are as much ourselves when we participate in society as when we have inner conversations with ourselves or dream. Social participation requires no organization or authority; it is natural to the psyche. The operating premises may change to suit the context, but who we are - our essential nature - does not.

Indeed, anarchism could never hope to function peacefully and beneficially if we were not already part of "something larger than ourselves". Once we realize that the distinctions we draw are arbitrary, we don't need contrived institutional identities like those offered by advertisements, teachers, recruiters, politicians, and bosses. We are part of "something larger" just by being, not by doing, let alone by certification and mobilization.

Authoritarians forget that the "something larger" they're so interested in constructing is much smaller without each of our unique contributions. Coercion, repression, dishonesty all limit our individual abilities to fully express our natures in the collective. Parts of that "something greater" are trimmed and manipulated to make that "something greater" into something it is not. Controlled organizations cannot be spontaneous and are therefore less than complete.

What is anarchy but the sociological realization that all is one, and that no hierarchy or authority can improve upon that reality? Liberty is the political consequence of "the largest something": the spontaneous sum of individuals freely expressing their natures within the body of humanity. And you have only to be yourself to participate.

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Written on Sunday, June 01, 2008