Power, resilient communities, and anarchism

(AFP photo: Members of the Lords Resistance Army, accused of hacking 45 civilians to death in Uganda on Friday.)

DJ Mitchell posts about power and why atrocities occur by those wanting it or trying to hold on to it.

The killers call their causes by different names: religious purity, ethnic pride, security, or freedom. But behind the words, it all boils down to power: who has it, who wants it, and who is willing to kill to get it or keep it. And it’s no longer armies battling each other as it was a few decades ago: as Trappist monk Fr. Thomas Keating observes,

“In time of war, one is now safer in the military rather than remaining a civilian, since non-combatants suffer a much higher proportion of casualties than soldiers.”*

But what, Mitchell says, if there was no centralized power to grasp and we lived in resilient communities instead?

Unrealistic, you say. Yet 4GW pioneer John Robb (no Lefty) says it’s our nationalism that makes us vulnerable. He prescribes “a wholesale reinvention [of] networked communities”— not a top-down government, but a self-reliant cellular structure that weathers shocks and has no power to take away.

This sounds quite a lot like the vision of some anarchists. Interesting that Mitchell, who is fiscally conservative and socially liberal, and Robb, an ex-Special Forces military theorist, have arrived at territory where anarchists have been for decades. Anarchism, of course, is not the absence of order or mindless bomb-throwing, but is quite a lot like what resilient communities would be.

War, data, and communication have already moved beyond the centralized model. Examples of decentralized business and agriculture abound. How long will we insist that our centralized model of government, be it republic, socialist, fascist, religious, or other, is the only way to do it?


  1. Thanks, Bob, for your succinct summary. I would add that I’ve never thought of myself as an anarchist– I don’t believe in “no government.” I do believe in some ideas that were fairly radical when first proposed, and apparently still are: democracy, community sustainability, and subsidiarity (decisions at the lowest possible level).

    Most of the issues you blog about– the financial and credit crisis, global warming, the various wars and conflicts– could be significantly and positively impacted by taking our power back into our local communities. This would not be to the exclusion of larger government, but for larger government to dance to our tune, not the other way around.

    Clearly that means giving up some long-held ideals: that Government can make us happy if it just passes the right laws; that cheap consumer goods are the equivalent of freedom; and that we need not understand our earth to live well on it. To the contrary, we will need to understand where the food we put in our mouths comes from and know the men and women who grew it, we must understand the businesses we invest in and know the people who run them, we must understand energy and know what its true cost is, and we must take responsibility for the wear and tear our lifestyles inflict on this biological machine we call Earth.

    I don’t call this approach anarchy or libertarianism, since the focus is not on the individual except insofar as we as individuals have a responsibility to our neighbors. The focus always is on healthy communities, in which healthy individuals develop and thrive.

  2. The Grey Market, Anarchy as Free Market Capitalism in purity, Fourth Generation Politics. Every man for himself, each (ideally) socially conscious of the consequences of their actions, often even unto the seventh generation.

    The fragmentation I anticipate, DJ, is inevitable, and a good thing.

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