The state is a giant sharpie that delineates what is and isn’t legitimate violence, what is and isn’t good or real or acceptable. No wonder the pen is mightier than the sword when the pen signs off on its wielding.
The world, we say, is built for humans. But when the world is actually built for a specific group of humans, for wealthy, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, neurotypical, western white men, then what of the rest of us? If I told you that the further we journeyed from this “ideal” or “default”, the less human society considered us to be, that would seem pretentious academic nonsense, were Muslims not faced with genocide in Palestine and Myanmar, were 40% of homeless youth not queer/trans youth, were black people not still suffering the effects of wealth and dignity stolen from them consistently for the hundreds of years, were people with disabilities not routinely victimised by police, were wealth inequality not reaching nauseating new levels, were autistic people not endlessly pathologised and designated abhuman, were women not considered purely receptacles of male desire, were people with mental illnesses not stigmatised and feared and ignored.
Any good system is designed to self-obsolete. There is a problem, it fixes the problem, then it ceases to exist. When affirmative action policies become unnecessary, they will simply stop. When gender quotas become unnecessary, they will be no more. When wealth redistribution programs finish paving over the cracks in our moral reality, they will die a happy death.
If I am an anarchist, it is because I believe the state can be that kind of institution.
Not like prisons. Prisons can never obsolete themselves because their very design creates more of the problem they seek to solve. Mariame Kaba at Prison Culture posits mass incarceration is actually the reformed version of the supposedly unreformable institution of slavery, and I buy it, because as her own work proves time and time again, the prison-industrial complex maintains a permanent underclass that capitalism needs to survive. Prison abolition can never come from the work of prisons, because capitalism creates the conditions that make prison seem necessary, and capitalism is itself maintained by the prison system.
By contrast, we can imagine a state that doesn’t presuppose its own existence and works towards its own destruction. The legitimate use of violence is the protection of weak from strong. While obviously the state consistently fails at this goal, due to its control by the strong, what’s important is we can imagine a state of the dispossessed and disprivileged. In fact, we’re working towards that goal every single day, and if it seems like we’re not getting anywhere, it’s only because the most radical goals are forced onto the longest timelines by empires that tremble at the roots of their own demise. They lie and say these goals are unachievable and unrealistic, but only their resistance lengthens the process. More than that, their resistance only lengthens the process, it cannot and will not prevent our success.
If I am an anarchist, it’s because I am optimistic about what humans can do. I believe we can learn to recenter our politic on blackness and indigeneity, transwomanhood and queerness, poverty and the south. I believe we can topple the pillars of white supremacy, I believe we can make states that are democratic for all, and not just for some, I believe we can bring an end to allism, I believe we can achieve excellence.
I don’t believe in a human nature holding us back, because the darkness of “human nature” is the product of living in a culture that socialises incentives for greed and power since literally the moment that the first human experienced what we would now call self-awareness, rational thought and the ability to critique and question and I believe we can reject that indoctrination. I don’t believe the lines we draw between people are insurmountable, because even though the aggregates of every line of is and isn’t means we live in a world where people are deemed inhuman, savage and unreal for not conforming to an ideal of the perfect white man, I believe we can erase those lines, not by ignoring them but by moving the centre of our world to the weakest instead of the strongest.
I don’t believe in god, but I believe in love.
If I am an anarchist, and I am, I am not an anarchist right now. The state has the capacity to be either the greatest justice or injustice to human life, depending on whether it works toward its own infinity or its own annihilation. I am an anarchist for a future of justice and peace. And the sooner we listen to those who know the sting of oppression best, the sooner we can let them set their own timeline for utopia, instead of forcing them onto ours. Maybe we won’t get there in our lifetimes, but for our children, and our children’s children, and their children’s children, we need to start working now. Abdicating that responsibility because we’ll never see its benefits is the purest selfishness, and I denounce it.
I believe in the possibility of perfection. And even if I’m wrong, we can’t stop striving towards it. People are dying, and living in fear and pain, and they’ve lived that way for too long. Whatever we can do to limit the extension of that violence into the future, we absolutely must.