“At Last You Know the Truth”

by Sunni Maravillosa

After challenging the concept of sustainable freedom recently, I expected to be challenged for doing so. I wasn't disappointed. However, I was quite surprised by some of the challenges and their sources. I've been re-examining the arguments put forth for sustainable freedom and the helpful clarification, and my objections ... and I finally saw through to the fundamentals. And I came to an important realization regarding myself.

Some readers apparently saw my essay Of Castles, Dreams, and Liberty as somehow endorsing the state—I presume they inferred that from my questioning whether freedom is sustainable. I thought I'd been clear that I think freedom is always worth pursuing. I was challenging the idea that a specific approach or solution is sustainable. Others interpreted it as a personal attack on Claire Wolfe, which it was not, and which I'd hoped my acknowledgement of the series' merits in the essay and on my blog would have made clear. The most fruitful objection centered on the concept of freedom systems, and also raised the possibility that Wolfe and I were simply taking differing approaches to the same goal.

That would be nice in some ways, but I'm not sure we are. I do want to see freer transactions between individuals, of course. As opportunities become available for them, I'll take advantage of them. All participants will be better off—and presumably, they'll be happier for that. Each participant will become part of the freedom systems they use. However, understanding that inevitable result and advocating the establishment and perpetuation of a system are very different things. I'm resigned to the former; I don't foresee seriously engaging in the latter. That isn't to say I've never done so; older essays of mine show that I have, sometimes quite stridently. Two events have been stealthily undermining that attitude over recent years, though.

The first was becoming a parent. Seeing my children grow and learn in just the few years they've been around has enabled a richer, deeper appreciation of the value of liberty, and a stronger commitment to it. I want to do everything in my ability to encourage their creativity and exploration. That means, of course, respecting—and guarding—their freedom. The second was reading Butler Shaffer's excellent book Calculated Chaos. Little did I know that one idea I focused on in my review would resonate so deeply with me—an idea that ultimately speaks to my issues with the concepts of sustainable freedom and freedom systems.

Those terms suggest to me a top-down model of creation, by which I mean that a system is visualized, and individuals' actions are expected to conform to that visualization. One would hope that pro-freedom systems wouldn't rely heavily on that model, but it remains a disturbing possibility. More importantly, they also imply some inherent worth in the system qua system. That I most emphatically reject, because it seems to me, despite Wolfe's assertions otherwise, to be the first step in institutionalizing a system. And that just rubs this anarchist and individualist the wrong way.

A system is just a fairly predictable way of doing things. Where's the harm in that?, you might ask. I realized that I see potential harm in the comfort and opportunity for habit formation that systems offer their users. To whatever degree a system stifles or slows creative thought, because individuals think something like, That's the way it's always been done, it impedes progress. It presupposes that we, today, know what will be best for those living in the future. We don't. Per Bylund expressed similar ideas quite eloquently (all emphasis in original):

But to be comfortable as anarchist, you need to identify there is no fixed point and there are no guarantees. Every argument you make is pro-choice and pro-freedom, it is not pro-system. You cannot ever say what will be, only what you think could be. At first, it seems you are pushed in the corner in each and every argument how do you defend not knowing? How can you proudly claim you don't know when everybody is ultimately out to get a detailed and warranted answer?

The problem, until you realize it, is of course that there are no answers about the future. You simply cannot tell. No one on earth or anywhere can tell.

Or, we can return to Shaffer's excellent formulation of anarchy:

Anarchy is an expression of social behavior that reflects the individualized nature of life. Only as living beings are free to pursue their particular interests in the unique circumstances in which they find themselves, can conditions for the well-being of all be attained. Anarchy presumes decentralized and cooperative systems that serve the mutual interests of the individuals comprising them, without the systems ever becoming their own reasons for being. It is this thinking, and the practices that result therefrom, that is alone responsible for whatever peace and order exists in society.

I am not pro-system, no matter what the system. I have little confidence that individuals can totally avoid the systems ever becoming their own reasons for being. Sustainability seems to me to be the first step down that path; thus I'm skeptical of its value, no matter where one attempts to apply it. I am part of various systems, as I already acknowledged: there's no getting around that, if one isn't an entirely self-sufficient hermit. (And even then, one is still part of many natural systems.) I'm a Discordian—which also means I'm a pope; cool! Throughout my life, I have danced closer to and farther from this realization; now, at last, I embrace chaos and drink deeply. For, even though its taste is sometimes unexpectedly unpleasant, it is from the instability and uncertainty chaos holds that humans often find the drive to bring out the best in themselves. Besides, it's fun. Also, it's the winning team; always has been. To paraphrase an apparent fellow discordian, chaos always defeats order because it's better organized.

These are my crayons and my paper, and I don't always take the resulting scribbles too seriously. Maybe you shouldn't either. They aren't meant to be personal attacks, but rather challenges to ideas that seem to me to advocate stuffing humans into little boxes of some sort or other. You should also keep in mind that I'm working on improving my Gordon Deitrich approach to life.

[Author's note: I wish to thank Tom Ender, Manuel Nuñez, and MAL for their invaluable contributions to my thinking, and by extension to this essay.]

 published at Endervidualism on Sept. 15, 2006

Sunni Maravillosa has a web site with a great blog and many other features, visit it at - http://www.sunnimaravillosa.com/