How to end the State
by Alex Ryan
“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”
- Henry David Thoreau
The intense passion which drives anarchists to oppose the existence of the state invariably springs from our deep compassion for the suffering of its many victims. The State robs huge portions of the income of all who reside within its borders and utilizes the loot to finance all manner of force on all manner of victims both at home and abroad – ultimately escalating to the mass murder of millions in senseless wars.
Though passionate, we who seek to end the State seem to struggle over how to actually realize the dream. Many strategies have been tried – from running in elections to civil disobedience – to no avail. What all of these strategies have in common is that they all seek to end the State by engaging it directly in some form of conflict.
But when we battle against the state directly we invariably lose. This can at times lead to a feeling of despair. The State seems so powerful and we seem so weak by comparison. But I believe very strongly that both the perceived strength of the State and that of our weakness are illusory.
The State is actually a lot weaker than we think it is. I am in fact convinced that the state is so weak that it can be permanently ended in our life-time. But only if we focus our passion and our resources on the real force that gives rise to and sustains its existence.
What is this force? Do you know? Are you sure? If you do not know, why? How many of us who are engaged in struggle with the state have actually taken the time to stop and think deeply about this fundamental question?
How can we seriously expect to defeat an enduring institution without being absolutely certain about why that institution exists in the first place and why it seems to be so resilient? How can we defeat an enemy that we do not truly understand?
The State is organized coercion. When citizens line up to vote they do so because they are either seeking to impose their will on their neighbors or to prevent their neighbors from imposing their will on them or both. Are not the hearts and minds of those who seek to use coercion the force that breathes life into this thing we call the State?
Freedom is the absence of coercion. Freedom is the decision to stop imposing our will on each other and to live and let live. The voluntary society to which we aspire is one in which interactions between people are voluntary, based on mutual consent and free from coercion.
By why does coercion exist in the first place?
To answer this question you need only introspect.
Have you never felt the urge to impose your will on another human being? What was the force that drove you to do so? Was it not fear? Is not all coercion rooted in fear?
Have you ever felt the urge to impose your will on another human being but resisted the temptation to do so? What was the force that drove you to resist? Was it not empathy for the person(s) whose freedom that you would be restricting? Was it the knowledge that harming another to alleviate your fear would put you into conflict with your conscience?
Is not the force that gives rise to and sustains the existence of the state uncontrolled fear? Is it not the case that this thing we call the state is merely the physical manifestation of the collective uncontrolled fear of a society? When fear grows does not the power of the state grow? When fear recedes is not the power of the State weakened?
Is this not the crux of the matter?
Is not the root of all that is evil the decision to respond to the impulse of fear with coercion?
Is not the root of all that is good the decision to resist the temptation to respond to the impulse of fear with coercion and to seek instead to use the power of empathy for those who would suffer from it to face and overcome the fear itself and thus remain in harmony with our own conscience?
Is this not obvious to us all?
Why then do we continue to hack at the branches of evil instead of striking at the root?
Who among us has not convinced countless supporters of the state that using coercion against our fellow human beings who have done us no harm is morally wrong only to witness them continuing to support the State?
Human beings are not driven by logic. We are driven by emotion. People behave this way when they are driven by fear. Their fear can be so overwhelming that they will tell themselves whatever lies they have to in order to morally justify coercion to themselves because the coercion serves to alleviate their fears.
Importantly, however, when they choose the path of self-deception, they are choosing the immediate gratification of relief from fear at the expense of the long term suffering of living in disharmony with their own conscience.
All human beings are naturally driven to act in harmony with their conscience because all human beings are driven to be happy. And one cannot be truly happy if they are in disharmony with their conscience because their conscience will punish them relentlessly for the harm that they are causing to others.
This is why we can be absolutely confident that we will ultimately win the struggle. Humanity is destined to exit the age of barbarism and to dispense with the State and other forms of organized coercion because human beings are driven to be happy and they can only be truly happy when they are acting in harmony with their conscience by not causing harm to others. Our very biology compels us to do so. The end of the State is pre-ordained by evolution.
Voluntaryism is nothing more than the natural philosophy that human beings choose to follow when they are acting in complete harmony with their conscience.
Our task then is to help those who are willing to find happiness by choosing to stop harming others either directly or indirectly through their support of coercive institutions like the State and to instead harness the power of empathy to choose to face and overcome the fears that give rise to the urge to control their environment. The task of bringing about an end to the state then is actually a joyous one because it requires us to help people become more happy and self-confident in order to do so.
The question must be asked thoughâ€¦ Why are so many people so fearful? Why are there so many souls with such low self-confidence? Why do so many people see the world as a fearful place from which they need to be protected? They certainly were not born that way. One need only watch a child at play to realize that we are all born fearless, self-confident and joyful.
Some would say it is the conditioning that people receive from their environment. This is a critical error. It is not what happens to us that defines us but rather how we choose to think about what happens to us. It is the *choice* to think of ourselves as victims and to re-tell our victim-hood stories to ourselves over and over again that dis-empowers us. When we do so we create a powerful emotionally charged image of ourselves as weak and powerless victims who are unable to protect ourselves against a hostile world where threats lurk around every corner.
It is victim-hood thinking that not only zaps our self-confidence but drives millions into debilitating depression and to seek solace in various unhealthy forms of immediate gratification. It is victim-hood thinking that must be overcome in the mind of the individual in order to rebuild their self-confidence to the point where they will be strong enough to face and conquer their fears and thus lose their desire to impose their will on their fellow human beings, or to stand idly by while others do so.
This then is the task at hand. A permanent end to the State can only be achieved by attacking the force that gives rise to it. That force is uncontrolled fear. In the mind of a healthy individual empathy/love is far stronger than fear and can easily contain it. The fear that gives rise to and sustains the State can only be conquered by ending the underlying self-inflicted suffering of victim-hood thinking from which it spawns. This is what must be done by those who truly wish to strike at the root of evil.
However, in order to effectively help others to re-build the fearless self-confidence that they were born with, we must do so for ourselves as well. As Gandhi said â€¦ “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” How many of us have dis-empowered ourselves by choosing to think of ourselves as victims of the State? Has that type of victim-hood thinking not zapped our self-confidence in our own ability to achieve the dream?
What if we chose to think about the situation differently? What if we saw the truth that all force springs from fear and sought to cultivate compassion for the fearful instead of anger for the force that resulted from it? When we see the truth that behind all acts of aggression is uncontrolled fear we see the truth of how weak the State really is and how easy it actually would be to bring about its downfall by simply choosing to help people to overcome their fears.
What if we realized just how incredibly powerful we are? A single individual can change the world. There exists a ripple effect for everything that we do which we are almost never aware of because we can only see our effect on those with whom we interact directly. We do not see the bigger picture. We don’t see how helping one statist to find happiness by choosing to live in harmony with their conscience for the rest of his life affects all of his subsequent interactions with people and how these, in turn, affect their interactions, and so on and so on. In this fashion, our small ripple in the pond of humanity can grow into a great wave that sweeps the world affecting countless lives of which we will never be aware.
The State is a manifestation of those who live in fear. We are the fearless. The State is weak and we are strong. The future belongs to the fearless.
The end of the State is at hand. We need only channel our passion such that we are striking at the root of evil instead of hacking at its branches. With every person who we help to become more self-confident the State becomes weaker and we become stronger.
An end to the existence of the State and the age of barbarism as a whole is pre-ordained by evolution. Our choice is merely whether we would like to bring it about in our life-time?
Originally published at Liberty For All January 30, 2010.
Alex Ryan is a voluntaryist who blogs at Fear of Freedom.