November 09, 2004

A Question Of Leadership

Due to the recent US elections, I have been thinking about the innate human requirement for leaders. Of course, the nature of our species is social, and so order must be established if chaos is not to prevail. Having an effective leader is one way of achieving this, whether monarchic, autocratic, theocratic or democratic. It seems that humans cannot survive without being led by a chief.

In my teenage years, after a brief stint of interest in Communism, I progressed on to Anarchist philosophy. During this typical adolescent phase, I read the works of Karl Popper and was intrigued by the notion of ungoverned society: Could such a society succeed?

For many people, the status quo of government remains a sacred component of reality, that while it can be altered through revolution or a change of ideology, it will nonetheless continue to exist as a force of control.

Anarchism is a misunderstood philosophy, that has many definitions. In general, it has come to represent violence and anti-social behaviour. However, this is the superficial mask of anarchism, often promoted by governments, so that the masses remain enamoured with their rulers.

For me, I have no interest in violence or even actively participating in any anarchistic over-throwing of a government. If I ever did, it was a response to teenage angst. I am far more interested in the intellectual test it throws at society. As a concept, it is a valuable tool for assessing the worth of government, the rights of individuals, as well as the social pool in which we all swim: We can intellectually jump out from the confines of the social order, and ask 'what ifs?'

There are, to the surprise of some people, many schools of thought within this philosophy. One school in particular, promotes the positive belief that humans are inherently good, and that it is artificial organisations that corrupt individuals. Whether this is true, is speculative at best, but it does contradict the negative reputation of Anarchistic doctrine.

Coming back to the original question, do we need any government, it would be pleasant to think that humans could become so enlightened as to make wise judgments individually, without the need for or intervention of government.

Would mass conformity be the only way to achieve this? If this were to occur, it would have to be a naturally evolving state, rather than a taught one. However, individuality, which is the antithesis of conformity, is a central aspect of anarchistic doctrine. If this is so, can individuals with their own egotistical demands, needs and agendas, function in an orderly manner without external direction? Clearly, the answer is no.

Perhaps, the only way that an ungoverned social model could be achieved, would be through the creation of a charter, very much like the Magna Carta or Declaration of Independence, which is lovingly accepted by all individuals without question.

How such a doctrine could be written is another question for debate. Ideally, a higher being worshipped by all, would be the best source for a charter. But, if there is no god, then individuals of such illumination and universal respect, should be entrusted with the task. However, this then leads to arguments about hierarchies and elites.

Certainly, Americans adore their Founding Fathers, but even so, there were people who did not support these men. So, for our doctrine, we must achieve the impossible, and find individuals, who would remain loved and respected by everyone, to compose the universally appraised charter.

What would be written in such a doctrine? The beauty of the Ten Commandments, is their simplistic clarity. Here are ten laws from God, that if followed, will allow escape from damnation. Our laws must also be minimalist, whilst limiting their restriction upon the right of individual freedom. If such a doctrine could ever be achieved, how could it retain its worth in a society of free individuals?

Punishment is a tool used by governments to keep individuals in line with laws, either as a threat or in actuality. However, in the model presented here, external enforcement, such as a police force or military unit, would be a critical contradiction to the cause.

The only way to secure the worth of the charter, is for all individuals to choose to accept the importance of it. Through this enlightened state, they would realise that a break from the charter, would lead to the unfortunate mental state of guilt - a faculty of the mind, which has naturally evolved as a tool for self-punishment. Unfortunately, guilt is a faculty that is not evenly dispersed among all individuals; with some having no remorse and others having too much.

As a mental exercise, it is fun to explore and question ideas such as these. Having experienced more of life, since my dreamy teen years of yore, I have come to realise that while idealistic propositions do have value, in reality, we are just floundering around, trying to do the best we can; which means that out of our mistakes hopefully come improvements. The concept of Government is a creation that has manifested out of a long process of trial and error in the human condition. While it falters often in its varying degrees of gentleness or severity, hits and misses, like all ideas it continues to evolve.

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