Tuesday, March 21, 2006

v is for verb?

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us One of the hot topics of conversation right now is the new movie V for Vendetta, with anarchists and other libertarians displaying an especially high amount of interest in the film. I haven't seen it yet, and I don't know when I'll have a chance to do so. (next week maybe?) Until then, I'll have to rely on other peoples' comments to get an idea of what to expect when I finally do get around to seeing it.

One of the better V-related blog posts out there is Wally Conger's "Exhorting the right of revolution", where he relates the film to the subject of revolution and ponders the relevance of revolution not just at some far off point in the future, but right now. There have been a number of comments generated by the post, with one that caught my attention being the one by Butler Shaffer. At one point in his comment, Shaffer wrote the following:
James criticizes this film for its failure “to demonstrate what an anarchic society would look like”; of failing to provide “even a hint of blueprint for a non-Statist society” or a “plan.” Here, he makes the same mistake as so many other libertarians: treating “anarchy” as a noun (i.e., a place, a specific system) rather than a verb (i.e., ways in which people deal with one another without force). The idea of a “planned” anarchistic society is simply too much of a challenge to my sense of humor. Suffice it to say that I have no idea how 300 million -– or, for that matter, 6 billion –- people will choose to deal with one another once they free themselves from state violence to adopt whatever systems and practices suit their individualized needs and preferences.
This is a very good point. Most people view the concept of anarchy as being either a noun (i.e., a state of anarchy) or an adjective (i.e., an anarchistic society). Indeed, many anarchists themselves view it that way. Viewing it as a verb, however, is an interesting way of presenting such a complex subject that may cause some people to think about it in a different light. As Shaffer puts it, viewing anarchy as "ways in which people deal with one another without force" removes one from not only having to come up with some sort of concrete blueprint - a tough task considering various individual preferences that would be put into action minus state coercion - but also allows for a conception of anarchy that may avoid the typical "anarchy = lawlessness or chaos" conception that is not only false, but hurts the credibility of anyone claiming to reject statism. It may seem weird for some to view anarchy as a verb, but it makes sense.

Let's face it, anarchy is in dire need of a reinvention from a P.R. standpoint, and anything that shakes it up in a positive and thoughtful way is a good thing. It also seems to be compatible with the whole "anarchism without adjectives" perspective since any sort of voluntary action, whether it's gift-giving, trading, or a monetary transaction, falls within the realm of anarchy. Anarchy is as simple as giving someone a hug, trading an apple for an orange, or purchasing a muffin at a bake sale. The ultimate goal is, of course, to be able to maximize the amount of anarchy one can engage in without being thwarted by coercive forces.

Getting back to the subject of V for Vendetta, you can read more of what Butler Shaffer has to say about the movie here. For a negative review of the flick from an anarchist perspective, click here for William Gillis's review.


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