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The 40-Year-Old Anarchist

By: Contributor - Jan 12, 2016, 10:29 am
An anarchist advocates a self-regulated society, without a state, and without politicians
An anarchist advocates a self-regulated society, without a state, and without politicians. (Medellín Antifascista)

EspañolBy Carlos Clemente

I believe that age is only a whimsical number. Age alone does not explain anyone’s complex universe.

I do not intend to behave like a teenager, and “try some stupid things I did not do when I was 23,” to paraphrase a popular ballad of the Uruguayan band Cuarteto de Nos.

The point is that, perhaps with less intensity than in the past, certain social mandates weigh on the shoulders of that large group of men who turn 40.

This is a random number. It is clear that an individual does not change his habits and customs from one day to the next, and much less his way of seeing things. His ability to interact with others when he is 39 or 41 does not change either.

The thing is that, when we turn 40, it is assumed that we have already had the opportunity to come a long way, and to assimilate enough life experiences to be able to consider ourselves in the “plenitude of maturity.”

In the popular imagination, an anarchist is a destructive fellow, unable to listen to reason or to express his dissent in fluid dialogue.

Conservatives seem to think that an anarchist uses any opportunity he has to throw stones at the windows of a McDonald’s restaurant while concealing his face under a hoodie.

The stereotype of the anarchist is limited to the image of a punk, gang member, or a teenager who, unsatisfied with everything and everyone, needs to reaffirm his individuality by dying his hair green.

An anarchist lives in his parents’ basement, despite the fact that he hates them, listens to loud music, is not looking for any job or responsibility, and is generally grumpy. If he happens to be in another mood, it’s due to his use of psychoactive drugs.

In short, an anarchist is associated with the most exaggerated defects of youth.

Such ideas, however, are based on the absolute ignorance of anarchist theory, of the different currents of anarchist thought, and of the history of its major advocates.

The mistaken equation of anarchism with chaos feeds sentiments based on a mistaken assumption that is certainly convenient to the groups in power: that the state is essential.

In truth, however, anarchism means political maturity, if by maturity we understand the loss of any illusion with or attraction to the unreal. Anarchists, in fact, are under no sort of illusion regarding collectivism.

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We are fully aware that politicians, that minority entrenched in the institutions which supposedly represent “the people,” never act against their own interests. Simple logic dictates that their own interests often diverge from the welfare of those who pay taxes to support the political caste.

We are aware that to pin our hopes of individual or collective prosperity in the alleged goodness of a leader, despite how elevated his discourse may be, is an irrational act.

We infer, too, that the “social contract” we did not sign is nothing but a mere euphemism to conceal the guns with which they force us to adapt to this perverse order.

I believe that anarcho-capitalists are in a better condition to offer alternatives to statism than those who are skeptical of private property or free exchange. Often, enemies of free trade become entangled in deep contradictions when trying to support their proposals.

I am also aware of the naive, sectarian attitudes, and childish pretensions of some libertarian groups, many objectivists, or certain orthodox followers of the Austrian school of economics, who aim to explain the universe with three or four axioms.

Those biased positions sometimes lead to reductionism, or they avoid addressing some issues in depth. For example, they can omit all analysis of the state privileges enjoyed by large economic groups. As a result, they strengthen the stereotype that portrays anarcho-capitalists as pro-cronyism.

Beyond this, I would like anarchists to concentrate on what unites us, so that we can work together.

We are united by the pursuit to overcome statism, which we understand as a means by which the unscrupulous deceive the naive.

I just turned 40, and I am more proud to be an anarchist than ever.

Carlos Clemente lives in Montevideo, Uruguay. He holds a PhD in psychology. Clemente is also a translator and a university scholar. He considers himself a left libertarian.

Translated by Rebeca Morla.