I Didn’t Choose to be an Anti-Authoritarian

Anti-authoritarians question whether an authority is a legitimate one before taking that authority seriously. Evaluating the legitimacy of authorities includes assessing whether or not authorities actually know what they are talking about, are honest, and care about those people who are respecting their authority. And when anti-authoritarians assess an authority to be illegitimate, they challenge and resist that authority—sometimes aggressively and sometimes passive-aggressively, sometimes wisely and sometimes not.” — Psychiatrist Bruce E. Levine

People tend to think that anti-authoritarians are know-it-all smartasses or belligerent egotists, too good for the rules, too unwise to trust in the judgments of their elders and betters. But I feel that people who unquestioningly accept authority are throwing away their own brainpower. And anyways, I never had a choice but to be anti-authoritarian. Criticizing an anti-authoritarian of my type is like picking on someone for their skin tone or sexual orientation — you’re bothering someone about an aspect of themselves they never had any control over.

So this is how I came into anti-authoritarianism:

When I was four years old and entering Kindergarten, I looked up to my teacher Mrs. Mitchell as a wise crone figure. Learning to read a clock at Wilson Elementary was as exciting as learning transfiguration at Hogwart’s could have been. One day, Mrs. Mitchell was telling us all we had better listen to her whenever she was speaking to the whole class. Needless to say, I’m paraphrasing her: “I can see everything from up here, so I can tell who’s listening and who isn’t, and if you don’t listen to everything I say you’ll be in trouble.”

Really? Can she really tell who’s listening? Seemed like she’d have to be a mind-reader, and even at four years old I had the feeling that mind-readers were either imaginary or very rare. I had to test her unbelievable claim, even though there was no way I would break that witchy old crone’s wise and just rules. So, I stuck my finger into my right ear, the one facing her, and continued listening out of my hidden left ear. She promptly yelled at me for not listening, aggravated that I had apparently broken the rule just as she was explaining it. I had tested her claim about identifying all the listeners and found it to be false, for which I instantly felt guilty.

Outside of my own parents, Mrs. Mitchell was my first encounter with authority. And now, through a sort of informal science experiment, I knew that even the nicest and most appealing authorities would lie for their own convenience. Every authority thereafter would be questioned; the really sham-ful authorities would be challenged and resisted.

So anti-authoritarianism is an old, old part of me, as ingrained as my attraction to women or my love for cheese. It’s not some rock ‘n’ roll posture or a path of devilish temptation.

Without trying to impose my will on the entire world, I do very much hope that more people will wake up to the revelation I discovered at age four.


A flaw in Statism?

Ted Bundy committed 30 murders before the law caught up with him, locked him up and executed him. John Wayne Gacy managed to claim 33 victims in his lifetime, and just as terrifying, he painted pictures of clowns.

These American serial killers attracted the attention of sophisticated, technologically advanced law-enforcement agencies, who tracked them down and stopped them with relative swiftness. In the developing world, killers sometimes make it farther. Luis Garavito killed at least 138 Columbian children over a run of at least five years (but over 400 deaths and disappearances of street children have been blamed on him.)

So, your worst nightmare of a remorseless killer might take out as many as 400 fellow human beings through individual effort.

Through the US killer drone program, Barack H. Obama has ordered the deaths of perhaps 4,700 people. This number is based on Senator Lindsey Graham’s admission from February 2013, since which many more people have been killed.

Discounting any federal death warrants, discounting his management of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, discounting black operations and the American intervention in Libya, we can pin 4,700 deaths on Barack Obama: he explicitly signed off on the drone attacks which ended these people. He had them whacked, terrorist, bystander and child.

The evidence supporting the drone attacks is secret. Thus, the only argument in favor of drone attacks is that the U.S. government really knows what it is doing… this is an argument from authority, generally agreed upon to be a logical fallacy, and of no value to truth-seekers.

Barack Obama has no rational defense for ordering the 4,700 deaths. He is at least ten times as dangerous as the planet’s worst serial killer ever. Wouldn’t you like to have a beer with him?

Perhaps there is some flaw in the philosophy that allows us to tolerate Obama and the other heads of state.


Are You Going to a 4/20 Party?

Will you smoke pot in your hotel room?

Click the above link to download a podcast: two libertarians debate the ethics of smoking pot in your hotel room.
Thaddeus Russel says that smoking pot in the open is the only thing that will get it legalized; Brett Veinotte is shocked at the disrespect that Alt-Expo libertarians showed to the hotel’s property rights.

Non-Aggression Principle, Golden Rule, Wiccan Rede

The Non-Aggression Principle states that initiating force or coercion against others is inherently wrong. Everyone understands this on an intuitive level: it is wrong to hit other people (initiating force) or threaten them with a beating in order to take their lunch money (coercion); however, it is okay to hit someone if they are trying to hurt you or a loved one, since you did not initiate the use of force (self-defense). In politics, the Non-Aggression Principle is espoused by libertarians, who claim that the principle applies to governments and their agents as much as it does to everyone else in all situations.

The Non-Aggression Principle is related to the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Would you have others beat you up or threaten you into doing what you hate? You would not, so you generally follow the NAP. Unfortunately, the Golden Rule calls for treating everyone alike, when we are all different. When a Black person in the neighborhood calls me a “nigga,” I feel glad to be seen a human being rather than an alien “cracker”… however, if I were to call them the same thing back, they might well think I was verbally aggressing against them.

Some people feel that they are doing a productive civic duty by paying taxes, while I resent my money being used to prop up exploiters like Wal-Mart, to lock up victimless offenders and to murder people in other parts of the world. When you go out and vote for your representatives, please don’t pick people who want to do unto me as you enjoy having it done unto you.

Better than even the much-lauded Golden Rule is the short, short version of the Wiccan Rede. The Rede is a poem of counsel, which modern witches heed. The long version outlines the Wiccan holidays and other aspects of worship. The short version is basically the NAP voiced in Renaissance Fair language:

Bide the Wiccan Law ye must,
In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust,
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill
An’ harm ye none, Do what ye will.

I think that the Rede is sufficient, and more precise than the Golden Rule. It is much more applicable than about five of the Ten Commandments (go ahead and engrave images if you want!). The Rede does not explicitly allow for self-defense. However, if we take self-defense as a given, the Rede provides the same foundation for moral reasoning as the NAP. Like libertarians, Wiccans may not use harm, such as coercion and violence. Not to prescribe certain acceptable medicines and sex acts, nor to rear and educate children, nor to enforce their own aesthetic standards on other people’s front lawns (if my lawn offends your eyes, wait until you see how I dress!).

When I was a teenager investigating the Wiccan religion, I was suspicious because the basic Rede does not prescribe any positive actions such as giving to charity or acting modestly. It looked like a statement of selfishness. I now think that positive action has to come from one’s intrinsic goodwill, one’s internal motivations — “do what ye will.” To combine the best of the NAP and Rede, allow me to offer the following:

An’ initiate force or coercion against none, do what ye will

If we can all agree on the rather minimal moral code of the NAP/Rede, and perhaps avoid fetishizing selfishness and greed, we’ll allow cooperation and creativity to flourish naturally. I don’t see any advantage in bullying yourself or others into being “better” people.