Tag Archives: anarchy

The President Versus Human Rights

Excellent article although I prefer the term “autarchy” over “anarchy”:

The President Versus Human Rights – by Darian Worden

Juan Mendez, UN special rapporteur on torture, stated this week that the US Government’s treatment of Bradley Manning “constitutes at a minimum cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of article 16 of the convention against torture.”

Manning is the US Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking (to Wikileaks) classified information: Evidence of corruption and underhanded tactics in promoting US global dominance, as well as video footage of a US helicopter crew murdering two Reuters journalists and shooting up a van with kids in it after its driver attempted to evacuate wounded victims of that attack.

Manning spent eleven months — before his trial even began — in punitive solitary confinement, typically confined to his cell for 23 hours a day and forced to strip naked at night. The Guardian reports that Mendez “could not reach a definitive conclusion on whether Manning had been tortured” because the US military has consistently denied him permission to meet with Manning privately.

US President Barack Obama, who campaigned on change and offered transparency, bears direct responsibility for the abuse, and possibly the torture, of Manning.

Not surprising: This is the same president who signed indefinite detention without trial officially into US law, and who claims the authority to order the murder of anyone anywhere with on his personal assertion that they are “enemy combatants.”

This is the President Obama who, as commander in chief of the US military and chief executive of the US government bears direct responsibility for murderous drone attacks, in which powerful missiles mutilate bystanders, then return to rain death on people who come to the scene of previous attacks.

This is the same President Obama who has shown almost complete indifference to voices from the massive populist Occupy movement, or to the violence used against them.

Obama is doing his thing as top politician. In order to make the impact he wants to make he needs to be in power, bending toward whichever interests prop him up. That means picking up where George W. Bush left off, and making deals with other arms of power: The warlords of the American military-industrial complex, the financial executives, the bureaucracy, and so on.

The Republican Party is falling all over itself to show that it can find candidates who would be worse than Obama. They talk about “getting tough,” appealing to people who think doing bad things to people the government says to hate makes them tough.

Anyone else? Ron Paul might at least scale back some of the government’s worst excesses or encourage other politicians to become temporarily less evil to undercut his support. However, it’s doubtful he’ll win because the Republican establishment would rather lose the top post for four years than risk permanent reductions in their power and privilege. In the end Paul is a politician with a shady past; putting a lot of hope in him would be silly anyway. Third Parties have the deck stacked against them on everything from ballot access to exclusion from public debate.

The power structure tends to reward people who are best at climbing over others to reach its top. What they are willing to do for those already on top keeps them in good standing with the ruling club.

Sure, politicians can be more or less evil, but we don’t have to invest our political efforts in helping a lesser evil come to power. We can work independently of politicians, in the short term pressuring them from outside and in the long term dispensing with them altogether.

Abolishing power structures and dispersing power as widely as possible is the ultimate democratic project of bringing power to the people. It is a project of fostering community based in respect for individual liberty and autonomy.

If it sounds like anarchy, that means you are on the right track. Ask what makes the word anarchy scarier than politicians who claim the right to kill anyone anywhere, put those who challenge them in solitary confinement for months, and instruct police to attack people occupying public space instead of upsetting the bankers and bosses that are so important to keeping them in power.

(from C4SS.org)

Who Is “We”?

One of the beliefs that most distinguished the fascists, Nazis, and communists of the 20th century was their organic view of society. Proponents of all three ideologies thought of society as an organism – and of each of you, dear readers, as simply a cell in some part of the organism. And just as our cells have no importance outside their ability to serve our whole body, in the aforementioned three ideologies, our whole beings had no importance aside from their ability to serve the whole society. So, of what value was the individual? He was simply a tool for the ends of others, none of whom have importance either because they, also, were tools. And if society was an organism, then it made sense for the head to run things, right? Government was thought to be the head. And, of course, because there were many people within government, the true head was leader of the government – Mussolini, Hitler, and Lenin or Stalin.

Why is all this relevant to an article by “The Wartime Economist?” Because the organic view of society, though hostile to the basic principles of individual rights on which the United States of America were founded (I use “were” on purpose; “states” is plural) has crept into our language and has distorted much thinking on the issues of the day, including war. It is particularly important in discussions of war because people are more likely to fall into the trap of seeing war as a conflict between two organisms rather than what it is, a conflict between two governments that, in most cases, have dragooned their countries’ resources with little or no consent from their citizens. So, for example, most people who discuss U.S. foreign policy, including, distressingly, most libertarians, talk about what “we” did when it was, in fact, not you or I, but specific government officials, who took the actions they’re describing. They say, “We dropped the bomb on Hiroshima,” not “Harry Truman decided to send a small number of people in the military to drop a bomb on Hiroshima.” “The Japanese [or, more commonly, "the Japs"] bombed Pearl Harbor,” rather than “The Japanese government decided to send hundreds of pilots in airplanes to bomb Pearl Harbor.” Etc.

George Orwell wrote a famous essay, “Politics and the English Language,” and a famous novel, 1984, making the point that language really does affect thinking. In 1984, he focused on the fact that, without certain words, certain thoughts could not be expressed – thus the importance of the government’s “memory hole,” down which certain words went. In his “Politics” essay, Orwell also pointed out the other side: using words can affect how we think. And that is my point here. Specifically, if we use the word “we” to refer to what specific governments have done and will do in the future, we are adopting the organic view of society, which most definitely will affect how we think.

I saw this in a conversation my wife and I had recently with a well-traveled man we met while in San Antonio. In response to an innocent question about what his favorite place in the world was, he lit into an attack on George Bush and Bush’s foreign policy. At some points in his rant, he personalized the issue – for example, when he talked about “Bush’s war.” There’s nothing wrong with speaking that way: it is Bush’s war. But then he went on to say that the Sept. 11 attack was “self-inflicted.” It was a predictable result of the U.S. government’s meddling in the affairs of other countries, he said. Now, as it happens, I agree with this last statement. But he then went on to minimize the loss of 3,000 people on Sept. 11: what did the lives of 3,000 people matter when millions have been murdered throughout the world? That I don’t agree with. I thought then, and still think, that the loss was horrific and that the people who did it were among the most evil people in history. But that’s because I see each of the 3,000-plus people as an individual who matters. He doesn’t. Why? Because he has the organic view of society. Go back to his statement that the Sept. 11 attacks were “self-inflicted.” How did the young kid and the 40-something businessman on one of the flights inflict it on themselves? They didn’t. So, what did this man really mean? He meant that the U.S. government had helped to bring on the Sept. 11 attacks. But his organic view of society – society is an organism with government as the head – led him to say that the killings were “self-inflicted.”

The great tragedy of collectivism, the organic view of society, is that it makes people heartless – they become incapable of seeing the real losses and hurts inflicted on innocent people because they stop seeing them as individuals. The example above is one of someone who couldn’t see the hurt that individual innocent Americans suffered in the Sept. 11 attacks. Another example is how hard it is for Americans to see the hurt that the U.S. government inflicts on many foreigners. Two instances come to mind.

While reading a draft of one of my students’ thesis chapters a few years ago, I came across the statement, “Fewer than 150 people were killed in the 1991 Gulf war.” I wrote in the margin that the number killed was likely in excess of 100,000 people, three orders of magnitude higher than the number he mentioned. When we went over his chapter together, he said that when he wrote “people,” he had meant “Americans.” His mistake was an innocent one, but it was an innocent consequence of a selective collectivism: seeing Americans as individuals, but people of other societies – particularly ones living in countries on which the U.S. government had made war – as part of an organism.

My second example is like that of the man who thought Sept. 11 was “self-inflicted.” Kevin S., a Navy officer and former colleague of mine at the Naval Postgraduate School, was burned by fuel from the airplane that flew into the Pentagon on Sept. 11. It looked as if he wouldn’t live, but he did. It was a heroic story that was written up in his local Virginia newspaper. The article talked about his recovery and had me cheering for him and his spirit. But then the article stated that Kevin had contacted some of his buddies in the Air Force and asked them to write on one of the bombs to be dropped on people in Afghanistan, “Kevin sends.” As much as I sympathized with Kevin, I was equally sympathetic toward some of the people whom “Kevin’s” bomb would injure or kill, who were at least as innocent as he was. Unfortunately, Kevin’s collectivist thinking prevented him from distinguishing between those who had hurt him and those who had not.

Collectivism is the ugliest ideology in the world. It has been directly responsible for well over 100 million deaths in the 20th century. Let’s do our part by not participating in it, even – maybe especially – in our language. The only hope we have for a peaceful world is to hold guilty people responsible for their actions and to treat the innocent people in all countries as innocent. Let’s quit talking about governments whose horrific actions we detest as “we.”

Copyright © 2005 by David R. Henderson. Permission automatically granted to use in whole or in part as long as publication, author, and title are attributed.

RT interviews Lew Rockwell regarding Fascism, Government & Tyranny

www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/105626.html

Anarcho-capitalist libertarianism: What is it?

Hans-Hermann Hoppe interviewed in Australia (audio version here):

Michael Duffy: As it happens, we’re going to start the year with a guest from the right, but so far to the right you certainly couldn’t call him conservative. I’m not sure what you’d call him, he is right out of the ideological ballpark. His name is Hans-Hermann Hoppe and he’s a German intellectual who lives in America. He’s going to propose ways of thinking about government, society and the economy that are literally radical.

Paul Comrie-Thomson: And I think in this case, Michael, the word ‘literally’ is being used literally.

Michael Duffy: Indeed it is. Hans-Hermann Hoppe is probably the world’s leading living libertarian philosopher. He’s emeritus professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a distinguished fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Perhaps his best-known book appeared about a decade ago, and it had the challenging title Democracy: The God That Failed. His critique was from the libertarian right.

Libertarians are part of a pretty broad church, so how would Hans-Hermann Hoppe describe his position? Just where is he coming from?

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: I am a libertarian but there exists various wings of libertarians. I am a member of the wing that is referred to as the anarcho-capitalist libertarians or, as I prefer to say, I’m a proponent of a private law society, and a private law society is a society where the same laws apply to every individual and every institution, not just separate groups of individuals—government officials on the one hand and private citizens on the other—to whom different laws apply.

Michael Duffy: In general terms, is there one particular place that you’re coming from? Is there a sort of fixed point where you start whenever you consider a new subject or a problem? Are you interested in freedom, for example?

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Of course I’m interested in freedom. I think freedom is defined precisely by the position that I take, that every individual and every situation is subject to exactly the same law and there is no group of individuals or no particular individual that has certain privileges that other people do not have.

Michael Duffy: Okay, let’s apply those beliefs to what you’ve written about the differences or the comparison between democracy and monarchy. I suspect most of our listeners would consider that democracy is a marked improvement and a dramatic difference from monarchy. How do you see the two?

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: First you have to define a state because monarchies as well as democracies are states, and then in the second step we have to explain what the difference between these two types of states are. States are defined as institutions that are the ultimate arbiter in cases of conflict on a certain territory, including conflicts involving the state itself. And secondly, states are territorial monopolies of taxation. So this applies both to monarchies and to democracies.

In monarchies, the head of the state considers the territory as his private property, and the people inhabiting the state territory as his renters who owe him rent payments. And of course he uses his privilege that he has as the ultimate arbiter in any case of conflict and a person who has the right to tax individuals to his own advantage. He exploits his population. This is also true in a democracy. Taxation exists in a democracy, just as much as it exists under monarchy. Democratic states also assume that they are the ultimate arbiter in any case of conflict, including conflicts involving themselves.

And there is distinction in democracy also between public law and private law. Public officials under democracy can do many things that private individuals in their private dealings would not be permitted to do. They can tax individuals on a private level, this would be called stealing. They can tax individuals and redistribute income in the private level, that would be considered stealing and fencing of stolen goods. They can draft people into the army or force them to work for the state, which on a private level would be considered enslaving people or kidnapping people…

Michael Duffy: But people choose this, don’t they? People will vote for democracy, for democratic governments.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Yes, that brings me to the difference between democracy and the monarch. Under monarchy it is relatively clear who the ruler is and what the rules are, under democracy you can hope that you will end up on the other side, that you will be on the receiving end, and that reduces the resistance against increases of taxes, against unjust verdicts in conflicts of a situation. But the most important difference between monarchy on the one hand and democracy on the other hand is that you replace somebody who considers himself to be the owner of the country with somebody who is a temporary caretaker of the country, and that does not improve matters, it makes matters much worse.

To give you an example, if I give you a house, in one situation I make you the owner of the house so you can determine who will be the heir, you can sell the house off and keep the receipts from the sale, while in the other case I make you the temporary user of the house. You can use to your own advantage the income that you can get off the house but you have no right to sell the house, you have no right to determine who will be the heir of the house.

Will you treat the house in a different way? And the answer seems to be quite clear; yes, you will treat it in a very different way. In the one case as the owner you will be interested in preserving the value, the capital value embodied in the house. In the other case, as a democratic politician where you can only use the house but don’t own it, you will try to increase your income that you can get from the house without any regard to the capital value embodied in the house, and you will engage in capital consumption, you will want to rob the country as fast as possible because, after four years or eight years you have no chance anymore to do it. So it is far more destructive of wealth formation than monarchy.

Michael Duffy: But isn’t it the case, using your analogy, that because of elections if I want to keep the house, keep my control of the house at the end of a period of four or five years, I have to act within certain limits? In other words, elected rulers, even if they do exploit people a bit, they have to keep that exploitation within boundaries in the hope of being re-elected.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: But this is also true for monarchs. Monarchs have frequently been killed if they overstep their boundaries, and the dynasty of which they are a member is very much interested in keeping the dynasty in power. Democrats are far less frequently killed because people always have the hope that in four years somebody else will come to power. So the resistance against attempts to increase government power to increase the amount of taxes is far lower under democratic conditions than it is under monarchical conditions.

And in addition it should be said that competition for entry into government, competition is not always good. Competition is good when it comes to the production of things that are good. We do not want to have a milk monopolist, we do not want to have a car monopolist, we do want to have competition in the milk industry and the car industry, but competition is not good when it comes to producing something that is bad from the point of view of property owners. We would not want to have competition in people­—who runs the best concentration camp, who is the best mugger on the street—and this is precisely the type of competition that we have in democracy.

Michael Duffy: It’s the case, isn’t it, that democracies on the whole have higher standards of living than other forms of government, and also the case that many people who do not live in democracies would like to, to the extent that we can gauge what they want. Why is that so, do you think? Are people deluded to want to live in democracies?

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Democracies have won out in competition against monarchies in the course of history. The monarchical age has ended by and large with the end of World War I, so it would be unfair to say that democracies are in fact richer than monarchies because we compare the 19th and 18th century with the 20th century. Societies can grow richer despite the fact that governments grow richer. So my thesis would be if we would have kept monarchies of the style that we had in the 19th and 18th century we would be far richer than we are currently under democratic conditions.

Michael Duffy: Moving on, what might a libertarian society look like? How might it organise itself?

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: The basic idea is that if every institution, every person is subject to the same set of laws, then also the production of law and order has to be provided by freely financed institutions. There is no monopoly institution in this place. This would lead to a situation where we would indeed get some sort of contract of what will happen to us in certain situations of conflict, what the provider of security of law and order will do. They will have to describe what it is that they will protect, how will they protect it, what will they do in the case of a conflict between a client of a protecting agency and the agency itself, what will happen in the case that two security providers and their clients have conflicts with each other.

They will have to agree, for instance, that there will be independent arbitration in the case of conflicts between various protecting agencies, whereas if you compare that with the current situation, we have a situation where no contract exists between the citizens that are allegedly protected in their life and their property by the government, where it is not clear what will happen if the clients, the so-called clients of the state, are dissatisfied with the provisions that the state gives, where the clients have no possibility of appealing to independent third parties if it comes to a conflict between the state and the individual, where instead we have a situation where if you have a conflict with the state, some state agent, over property rights, it is another state agent who decides who is right and who is wrong in this case of conflict. And there you can predict of course what the outcome will be; they will by and large decide that they are always right.

Michael Duffy: Can I ask you for an example? In this sort of world you’re describing, say there was a law and everyone else agreed with it but I didn’t. So if, for example, I live in a street and I’ve got a one-hour parking sign out the front and I disagree with that but the other people in the street agree with it, what might happen then? I’m just trying to get a concrete idea of this.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: The street would be privately owned. In a private law society there exists no such thing as public property, there exists only private property, and of course the owner of the private property lays down the rules that apply to this piece of private property. So conflicts like this would not even arise. Public property, on the other hand, generates conflicts. Allegedly we all own it. If we do not happen to agree, as if by magic, conflicts are almost unavoidable. If the unions want to demonstrate on the street and the car drivers want to drive on the street, both claim to be owners of this territory, and conflict is unavoidable. If everything is privately owned, it is perfectly clear whose rules apply and whose rules do not apply.

Michael Duffy: So if I own a house in a street, would that street belong to all the people in the neighbourhood or to another company? How would that work?

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: That can be arranged in various ways. It might be owned by all the residents on the street, it might be owned by a third party and you have the right to access your property. Obviously nobody would buy any property if he did not have the right to access his own property, so you would have a contract with the person who owns the street. Or there are neighbourhood associations that jointly own the street and make joint decisions, as in stock companies or as in gated communities or institutions of that kind.

Michael Duffy: And if I didn’t agree with them I could leave basically, I could sell my house and…

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: And then you could leave.

Michael Duffy: In Australia we have a large number of people who are on welfare, poor people who are looked after by what we call the welfare state, possibly more than in America. What would happen to those people under the sorts of arrangements you’ve been describing?

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: First of all I think that a large number of voluntary organisations would spring up, voluntary donations would dramatically increase given the fact that no taxes have to be paid. Currently the situation is such that you pay massive amounts of taxes and then people of course have the feeling why should I also support people who have this condition or that condition given that I am already paying an enormous sum of taxes.

Second, I think there would be greater pressure exerted on people not to become dependent on welfare because they are not entitled to it. They would have to behave in such a way that they satisfy their donors in some way, they have to be nice to their donors, whereas currently the situation is you feel entitled to these things and that breeds of course bad behaviour. Whatever you subsidise through taxes you will get more of it. If you support poor people, this does not eliminate poverty, it increases poverty, it increases the incentive to stay poor or to become poor. Whenever you subsidise people because they suffer from drug addiction or alcoholism, you increase of these forms of behaviour instead of discouraging them.

Michael Duffy: Do you think the welfare state can survive?

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: No, the welfare state will ultimately collapse for the same reason that communism collapsed. All Western welfare states will not be able to repay their debts, will not be able to fulfil their obligations that they have assumed vis-à-vis people who are retiring. The only way that they can fulfil it is by engaging in a massive amount of inflation, that is printing up the money in order to give the impression that they might fulfil the obligation, with the consequence of course that the purchasing power of money drastically falls and an expropriation of productive individuals will take place.

Michael Duffy: I’d like to ask you a bit more about economics but unfortunately we don’t have a lot of time left. Just very generally, can you tell us a few of your most important thoughts about how you think the international financial system ought to be arranged differently?

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: The fundamental problem that we have which began in its most drastic form since 1971 is that all governments are nowadays on a pure paper money standard. All governments or their central banks can create money out of thin air. Increasing the amount of money in existence does not increase wealth in society, it is just additional pieces of paper. There is not one additional consumer good resulting from more money being printed, there is not one additional producer good resulting from more money being printed. If by money printing we could make societies richer, there would not be a single poor society. In fact, there would not be a single poor person on earth.

All that this money printing does is redistribute income and wealth from those people who print and get and spend the money first, and it impoverishes and expropriates who do get the newly printed money last, who are on fixed incomes and are confronted with rising prices resulting from the fact that additional money was being printed.

So the most important monetary reform that we can hope for would be the abolishment of all central banks and the return to a situation that existed for most of mankind, namely a situation where money is a regular commodity that must be produced in a costly way, such as gold and silver, by the market. Again, no monopoly in the production of money but competition in the production of money, and money being a regular commodity that cannot be generated out of thin air.

Michael Duffy: What about the role of intellectuals? We’ve never had anyone like yourself on our program before and that is disappointing. Why don’t more people think like you or it least engage in more diverse thinking about freedom?

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: The answer to that one is very easy. Most intellectuals are state employees, and of course they know where their money comes from. While that fact does not determine in the Marxist way how people think, it definitely helps to know where your money comes from. The demand for intellectual services on the market is far lower than the impression that intellectuals themselves tried to spread. Their salaries would probably be significantly less, there would be significantly less so-called intellectuals because they realise that their biggest helper is the state. They tend to be in favour of state institutions, tend to be in favour of having public education, public funding for research. Again, most research that is being done, especially in the social sciences, appears to me as a big waste of money. Societies would be richer if many of these so-called research projects had never been carried out at all.

Michael Duffy: Professor Hoppe, thanks very much for your time today.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Thank you very much.

Michael Duffy: Hans-Hermann Hoppe is emeritus professor of economics at the University of Nevada, and a distinguished fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

In coming weeks here on Counterpoint we’ll be talking to another prominent libertarian, David Hart. He’s an Australian historian, now resident in the US, a self-described ultra-sceptic who runs the important website, the Online Library of Liberty, and we’ll hear his views on freedom, war and the growth of the state.

Egyptian anarchists seek self-governed society

From thedailynewsegypt (sounds a lot like autarchy):

By   Hanan Solayman /Special to Daily News Egypt January 20, 2012, 8:23 pm
CAIRO: They do not believe in governments, they boycotted the elections, they demand “direct democracy” and they’re associated with chaos and have been targeted by the military and some Islamists.Egypt’s anarchists are anticipating a crackdown before the first anniversary of the January 25 uprising. They are perceived as seeking chaos; villains who want to bring down the state, defy authority and spread lawlessness.

The word ‘anarchy’ in Greek means “no authority.” Anarchists’ central belief is that “no man is good enough to be another man’s master,” and that “good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.”

Anarchy became the new bogeyman — a place once reserved to the Muslim Brotherhood under the Mubarak regime. Many believe that this ideology is dangerous to Egypt.

“Egypt, the homeland, is not the same as the system or the state or the government. The people called for the overthrow of the regime and this means to bring the current system or the state down, as it happened before with the Abbasids, Ayyubids, Ottomans and others whose state was overthrown, but Egypt was not harmed,” said self-proclaimed anarchist Yasser Abdel Kawy, an artist, photographer and graphic designer.

The state, according to Abdel Kawy, is a means to practice authority which is why it needs to be replaced with a self-governed society. “I have no fear or worries about what may happen to Egypt if the state is gone. We don’t have this sharp division or difference when it comes to ethnicity or religion,” he added.

Global movement
Egyptian anarchists established their first entity, the Libertarian Socialist Movement (LSM), in May amidst a global revolutionary wave that included tens of activists all calling for direct democracy as opposed to parliamentary democracy.

In direct democracy, decision-making comes from the people directly without mediators like members of parliament.

Similar protests and occupy movements known as “Take the Street” evolved in different parts of the world like the United States, Spain and Italy.

“It is true that much of the ‘Occupy’ movement can be traced to Anarchist ideals. This can’t be explained by anarchist propaganda but more by the failure of the current system of capitalism and parliamentary democracy,” said architect Tamer Mowafy, who describes himself as an anarchist.

People feel vulnerable to the incisive attacks on their standards of living and no longer believe that politicians will help them, Mowafy said.

Leftist parties and the democrats in the US proved themselves useless. On the other hand, traditional Marxist alternatives have been discredited beyond reclamation after 1989, he said.

“It is evident that people taking part in the ‘Occupy’ movements almost spontaneously embrace anarchist principles. The movement is leaderless, all decisions are made within a general assembly, and instead of majority rule consensus is always sought,” he added.

“Anarchism means struggling against the authority of the state and capitalism; that’s why if you’re not a leftist, you can’t be anarchist,” said Yasser Abdullah, a freelance translator. Anarchism is a socio-political movement that mobilizes society without seeking power, he added.

Horizontal authority
Instead of vertical authority, anarchists call for horizontal cooperatives organized “by the people, for the people”. Supporting multi-independent syndicates is one of their goals. They support the idea of workers taking over factories and companies which will be self-managed by elected workers committees.

Abdullah gave the example of the Ultras, Egypt’s organized football fans. These groups are horizontal networking movements with grassroots support. They are leaderless and have joined the revolutionaries in the common fight against police brutality, and so they share common ground with anarchists.

Abdullah belonged to a communist entity before embracing anarchism. His father, he recalled, “was one of the workers who made the real wealth of Egypt for 42 years until retirement, but never tasted it.”

The fear of anarchism, Abdullah explained, stems from the “fear republic we live in.”

Egyptians have been practicing various brands of anarchism not related to politics unknowingly, the most popular example of which are the monthly co-ops, a communal money saving system which is entirely managed by the individuals in the group, replacing banks.

“In the past, people governed themselves when there was no government. However, we do not mean that we’ll restore the tribal system or go back to pre-modern times, but we seek more developed forms of ruling based on cooperatives, volunteerism and no central authority,” Abdullah said.

Even in times of natural disaster like earthquakes, he said, people self-organize and divide tasks between them.

There are no holy texts or models to follow in applying anarchism. It is open to new ideas and is tailored to the needs of diverse societies.

“In some areas, an anarchist model would include some centralized authorities when it comes to foreign representation and the military,” Abdullah said. “As long as there are foreign threats, the army can be kept as it is … as an institution.”

There’s no defined vision for how the society would look like. Yet, there are some basics like having no authority but voluntary cooperatives, syndicates and a general assembly that comprises of all citizens to ensure the maximum level of rights and freedoms in a society where all people are equal.

It also works for a fair distribution of wealth from a leftist point of view. Not a single group of people would who have the upper hand in the society, whether businessmen, politicians or members of parliament.

Laws are what people decide according to the norms and traditions, but each case would have a different ruling based on the circumstances.

“The ideology is ideal and unpopular in Egypt. It seeks a utopian society where there are no social class differences and no authoritarian state as in the police or the army, which is difficult to achieve”, said Dr. Mostafa Kamel El-Sayed, leftist political science professor at the American University in Cairo. Only small communities around the world find their inspiration in anarchism, but historically, it’s hard for people to live outside the context of the state, he believes.

“They are not dangerous, however. They do not pose a security threat. Bringing the state down doesn’t mean using violence against some people in particular. This is the leftists’ rhetoric and it should be clearly understood to the society,” he added.

A decade ago, Dr. Heba Raouf Ezzat, political science professor at Cairo University, wrote an article titled, “Anarchism: The philosophy that translation was unfair to”. The Islamist academic explained how anarchism’s accurate translation is more close to “state-less society” rather than “chaos”.

“As the national state finds itself in a growing crisis amid globalization, anarchic ideas on how to manage a society without a state gains attention if developed more,” Raouf wrote. Recent developments like global networking, rise of the civil society and growing democracy in a way that fosters localities have common ground with anarchism according to Raouf.

Worldwide Utopia
For Mowafy, Anarchism is an international movement that seeks a unified self-governed humanity. At this final stage no armies are needed.

“However, within the current context, nobody in his right mind can ask for the army to be dissolved,” he noted. The army, like any other national institution, should be under the control of elected civilians and its budget revised by people’s representatives to protect national security, he added.

Viral Nassar, an Egyptian-French, believes in the ladder theory. “It will be pointless to spread anarchism now in Egypt. People don’t understand basic politics to grasp the most infamous system ever and adapt to it,” he says.

“Democracy with all its deceits will let people know how ugly and bloody democracy is,” he added.

Anarchic models include Christiania, the Freetown of Denmark. It’s an example of how a society can rule itself with no supervision from the municipality of Copenhagen which the town belongs to geographically. Only nine rules govern Christiania, some of which are: no weapons, no hard-drugs, no violence, no bulletproof clothing, no sale of fireworks and no stolen goods.

Michael Lund, journalist at Denmark Radio, said that Christiania has developed as a unique experiment where nobody owns land or homes and everything is decided by debating until everyone agrees. It has produced artists, new designs of everything from bicycles to clothes and is one of Denmark’s biggest tourist destinations.

“However, there are also problems. The idea of no leadership and everyone having to agree on everything has made it very difficult for the inhabitants to make fast decisions about anything. Also, Christiania’s belief that cannabis is not illegal has attracted gangs that sell hashish,” said Lund who lives less than 2 km from the “free city” and passes by it regularly. He has also visited it numerous times.

The people of Christiania, who often don’t trust the police, have not been able to keep these gangs out, which has let to violent incidents between different gangs, Lund said.

“There’s also a critique that Christiania has become a closed society, where only people who know somebody there can live — which is actually opposite to the original idea of the free city”, he said.

Although the January 25 revolution was leaderless — which is favored by anarchists who prefer to be unknown as soldiers in the life battle or “anonymous” as they prefer to call themselves — Abdullah stressed that the revolution found anarchy by itself and it was not anarchists who made it.

“It’s a disgrace to say that anarchists are behind the revolution because if we were, [the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] wouldn’t be ruling. We should have never left after Mubarak stepped down. Unfortunately, the people like to re-invent the wheel and fall into the same mistakes of other revolutions,” Abdel Kawy noted.

Creative chaos?
According to anarchists, anarchism can never be imposed from above. The real bet is the people who will realize the flaws of parliamentary democracy and choose direct democracy.

“We seek to build libertarian constructs within the current society, mainly cooperatives, labor unions and syndicates. Lower levels in the society as in localities are the most jammed because as you go smaller, more issues become common to inhabitants of such localities. Once people become confident of their ability to manage their own affairs democratically, they will seek to extend the space where they can practice self-management,” Mowafy said.

How would a country of nearly 80 million govern themselves making decisions altogether?

“Think outside the box,” said Abdullah. “Voting can be on Twitter.”

Agorism in action…

From Gawker:

The Underground Website Where You Can Buy Any Drug Imaginable

Adrian Chen — Making small talk with your pot dealer sucks. Buying cocaine can get you shot. What if you could buy and sell drugs online like books or light bulbs? Now you can: Welcome to Silk Road.

About three weeks ago, the U.S. Postal Service delivered an ordinary envelope to Mark’s door. Inside was a tiny plastic bag containing 10 tabs of LSD. “If you had opened it, unless you were looking for it, you wouldn’t have even noticed,” Mark told us in a phone interview.

Mark, a software developer, had ordered the 100 micrograms of acid through a listing on the online marketplace Silk Road. He found a seller with lots of good feedback who seemed to know what they were talking about, added the acid to his digital shopping cart and hit “check out.” He entered his address and paid the seller 50 Bitcoins—untraceable digital currency—worth around $150. Four days later the drugs, sent from Canada, arrived at his house.”It kind of felt like I was in the future,” Mark said.

Silk Road, a digital black market that sits just below most internet users’ purview, does resemble something from a cyberpunk novel. Through a combination of anonymity technology and a sophisticated user-feedback system, Silk Road makes buying and selling illegal drugs as easy as buying used electronics—and seemingly as safe. It’s Amazon—if Amazon sold mind-altering chemicals.

Here is just a small selection of the 340 items available for purchase on Silk Road by anyone, right now: a gram of Afghani hash; 1/8th ounce of “sour 13″ weed; 14 grams of ecstasy; .1 grams tar heroin. A listing for “Avatar” LSD includes a picture of blotter paper with big blue faces from the James Cameron movie on it. The sellers are located all over the world, a large portion from the U.S. and Canada.

But even Silk Road has limits: You won’t find any weapons-grade plutonium, for example. Its terms of service ban the sale of “anything who’s purpose is to harm or defraud, such as stolen credit cards, assassinations, and weapons of mass destruction.”

The Underground Website Where You Can Buy Any Drug ImaginableGetting to Silk Road is tricky. The URL seems made to be forgotten. But don’t point your browser there yet. It’s only accessible through the anonymizing network TOR, which requires a bit of technical skill to configure.

Once you’re there, it’s hard to believe that Silk Road isn’t simply a scam. Such brazenness is usually displayed only by those fake “online pharmacies” that dupe the dumb and flaccid. There’s no sly, Craigslist-style code names here. But while scammers do use the site, most of the listings are legit. Mark’s acid worked as advertised. “It was quite enjoyable, to be honest,” he said. We spoke to one Connecticut engineer who enjoyed sampling some “silver haze” pot purchased off Silk Road. “It was legit,” he said. “It was better than anything I’ve seen.”

Silk Road cuts down on scams with a reputation-based trading system familiar to anyone who’s used Amazon or eBay. The user Bloomingcolor appears to be an especially trusted vendor, specializing in psychedelics. One happy customer wrote on his profile: “Excellent quality. Packing, and communication. Arrived exactly as described.” They gave the transaction five points out of five.

“Our community is amazing,” Silk Road’s anonymous administrator, known on forums as “Silk Road,” told us in an email. “They are generally bright, honest and fair people, very understanding, and willing to cooperate with each other.”

Sellers feel comfortable openly trading hardcore drugs because the real identities of those involved in Silk Road transactions are utterly obscured. If the authorities wanted to ID Silk Road’s users with computer forensics, they’d have nowhere to look. TOR masks a user’s tracks on the site. The site urges sellers to “creatively disguise” their shipments and vacuum seal any drugs that could be detected through smell. As for transactions, Silk Road doesn’t accept credit cards, PayPal , or any other form of payment that can be traced or blocked. The only money good here is Bitcoins.

Bitcoins have been called a “crypto-currency,” the online equivalent of a brown paper bag of cash. Bitcoins are a peer-to-peer currency, not issued by banks or governments, but created and regulated by a network of other bitcoin holders’ computers. (The name “Bitcoin” is derived from the pioneering file-sharing technology Bittorrent.) They are purportedly untraceable and have been championed by cyberpunks, libertarians and anarchists who dream of a distributed digital economy outside the law, one where money flows across borders as free as bits.

To purchase something on Silk Road, you need first to buy some Bitcoins using a service like Mt. Gox Bitcoin Exchange. Then, create an account on Silk Road, deposit some bitcoins, and start buying drugs. One bitcoin is worth about $8.67, though the exchange rate fluctuates wildly every day. Right now you can buy an 1/8th of pot on Silk Road for 7.63 Bitcoins. That’s probably more than you would pay on the street, but most Silk Road users seem happy to pay a premium for convenience.

The Underground Website Where You Can Buy Any Drug ImaginableSince it launched this February, Silk Road has represented the most complete implementation of the Bitcoin vision. Many of its users come from Bitcoin’s utopian geek community and see Silk Road as more than just a place to buy drugs. Silk Road’s administrator cites the anarcho-libertarian philosophy of Agorism. “The state is the primary source of violence, oppression, theft and all forms of coercion,” Silk Road wrote to us. “Stop funding the state with your tax dollars and direct your productive energies into the black market.”

Mark, the LSD buyer, had similar views. “I’m a libertarian anarchist and I believe that anything that’s not violent should not be criminalized,” he said.

But not all Bitcoin enthusiasts embrace Silk Road. Some think the association with drugs will tarnish the young technology, or might draw the attention of federal authorities. “The real story with Silk Road is the quantity of people anxious to escape a centralized currency and trade,” a longtime bitcoin user named Maiya told us in a chat. “Some of us view Bitcoin as a real currency, not drug barter tokens.”

Silk Road and Bitcoins could herald a black market eCommerce revolution. But anonymity cuts both ways. How long until a DEA agent sets up a fake Silk Road account and starts sending SWAT teams instead of LSD to the addresses she gets? As Silk Road inevitably spills out of the bitcoin bubble, its drug-swapping utopians will meet a harsh reality no anonymizing network can blur.

Update: Jeff Garzik, a member of the Bitcoin core development team, says in an email that bitcoin is not as anonymous as the denizens of Silk Road would like to believe. He explains that because all Bitcoin transactions are recorded in a public log, though the identities of all the parties are anonymous, law enforcement could use sophisticated network analysis techniques to parse the transaction flow and track down individual Bitcoin users.

“Attempting major illicit transactions with bitcoin, given existing statistical analysis techniques deployed in the field by law enforcement, is pretty damned dumb,” he says.

A Personal Letter to the Tax Collector

Dear Sir/Madam,

I write this letter in good faith and with best intentions. I recognize that you probably have hopes, dreams and goals like any other human being and that you likely need to earn a living as you pursue those hopes, dreams and goals. I further understand that you honestly believe in the work that you do. The purpose of this personal letter is to make a case, using logic and reason, for you to reconsider your choice of employment.

I begin with the question, “are you a friend or an enemy to human life?”

Why do I start with this question? I believe it helps us get to the heart of the matter by focusing on our relationships to each other as fellow human beings. While pondering this question, I believe that a few definitions are in order before proceeding:

Simplified Definitions

Life: our biological existence in space and time.

Liberty: the ability to live one’s life as one wishes while respecting the lives of others.

Property: the goods that man produces or acquires through voluntary exchange and/or gift. Claims of land ownership are included here as well.

Murder: the taking of man’s life without his voluntary consent. This deprives him of his future (and future productivity). Excluded from this definition is the taking of another person’s life in the act of self-defense against an aggressor (when one believes one’s life is threatened) or in the defense of others when the lives of these others are threatened.

Slavery: the taking of man’s liberty without his voluntary consent. This deprives him of his present.

Theft: the taking of man’s property without his voluntary consent. This deprives him of his past (the time energy and talent that he used to produce this property).

Plunder: The ill-gotten gains from theft.

Let us further contemplate the nature of life

I put forth the following observations:

  • Man seeks happiness (and seeks to remove uneasiness or discomfort).
  • Man seeks to extend and enhance his life for if there is no life there is no man.
  • In order to live man must consume those things that sustain his life (food, shelter, etc.).
  • In order for the necessities of life to be consumed they must first be produced.
  • An infant cannot produce for himself so he must rely on the production of others through charity.
  • As a child matures he must continue to rely on the charitable production of others until he learns to produce for himself.
  • In the process of producing for oneself man usually develops a specialized skill that he can trade for the products of the specialized skills of others.
  • This process of production results in what is often referred to as “the fruits of man’s labor”.
  • The products of his labor are a direct extension of man’s life because they are the result of his invested time and life energy.

First Conclusion

Based upon the definitions and propositions set forth, anyone who seeks to take another man’s life, liberty or property against that man’s voluntary consent is an enemy to human life.

Further Observations

There are some men who seek to take away the property and liberty of others in order to use this production for personal profit. These men choose this path as they find it preferable to producing for themselves.

This short-term benefit is not only dangerous to the thief but it is detrimental to his long-term well-being as well. This is because his victims must divert a portion of their resources toward protection services instead of toward production. This loss of production reduces the overall societal quality of life as there are less products and services available for trade and enjoyment.

Despite this, the thief is not concerned with the detrimental, long-term effects of plunder as he only cares about the immediate personal benefit. Therefore, the rest of society must take protective measures if they wish to safeguard their life, liberty and property.

The Ignorant Plunderers

These are the individuals that unintentionally participate in plunder as they have not thought through the consequences of their actions. Those in this category are the majority of all plunderers and, unfortunately, a large percentage of society.

The Purposeful Plunderers

These are the individuals who know that their actions are contrary to human well-being and they continue in their plunder anyway. They can be thought of as “anti-life”. Those in this category are in the minority of all plunderers.

This brings us back around to our original question: “Are you a friend or an enemy to human life?”

If you consider yourself a friend to human life (which I hope you do) then you have now come to the realization that you have unintentionally fallen into the Ignorant Plunderers category by way of your employment. You recognize that the taking of a man’s property without his voluntary consent is an act of theft.

I recognize that I, too, must answer this question. I realize that if I wish to be a friend of human life I must refuse to take part in plunder by not accepting the stolen property that is offered to me in the form of public “benefits” that are funded through coercive taxation.

Now the question becomes, “what are you going to do about it?” Are you going to cease this plundering activity or are you going to cross over into the Purposeful Plunderer category and become an intentional enemy of human life?

It is my hope that you consider yourself to be a friend of humanity and that you will choose to modify your actions so that they are in alignment with your beliefs. I have made my choice. Can I consider you a friend?

Sincerely,
A Fellow Human Being

Quote of the day…

“The fatal attraction of government is that it allows busybodies to impose
decisions on others without paying any price themselves. That enables them to
act as if there were no price, even when there are ruinous prices — paid by
others.”
– Thomas Sowell
(1930- ) Writer and economist

Robert LeFevre on Objectivism

From The Fundamentals of Liberty (page 6) – by Robert LeFevre

There are also those who contend that objectivity is everything. They contend that the world is real and that everything that is, is. They are correct in their contention as to the existence of reality. But they are not correct when they contend that the uses of the mind are also objective. It is from this argument that the assumption grows that accurate knowledge is totally objective and that anything that is incorrect is subjective.

Thus, those who favor objectivism attempt to make it appear that the “rational” man is one who has objective knowledge and the “irrational” man has only an opinion which remains subjective. This is a very attractive way of looking at things for it can always be interpreted to mean that you are “right,” and that anyone who disagrees with you is “wrong” and hence “irrational”.

The weakness in this philosophy relates to the fact that no one ever really knows everything about anything. You only know those portions of reality that you have observed and correctly understand. Knowledge is an open circuit, not a closed one. You can always learn more. This will be more fully demonstrated later on. The process of education is a continuing one.

The philosophy offered here actually combines subjectivity and objectivity without denying the valid features of either. The real world is objective. It exists whether you are aware of it or not. The uses of the mind are subjective. They relate to the manner in which you observe and the way in which you think. Knowledge is the correct union of the two.

on “supporting the military”

Michael Rozeff writes:

Yellow ribbons pasted on cars is the least of the support given to the military by Americans. In a blog, Laurence Vance reports on third-graders singing “Thank You Soldiers.” Stephan Kinsella reports an airplane flight attendant thanking members of the military on board “for their service.”

These reports encourage me to report on an incident about which I had previously decided to keep quiet, for there may be a nationwide trend going on here that should be brought out into the open. Of even greater importance is a serious intellectual issue. Is support of the military a political action or is it a neutral action? Can one separate support for the military personnel from what the military does, or from its obedience to military actions that one finds objectionable?

This story and the debate on these questions will be told without my editorializing. Instead I will display the contents of e-mails. They contain the debate. They contain my side of it, and they contain that of my opponents.

The story began on February 7 at 9:25 a.m. when I got an e-mail from a committee of the School of Management (SOM) at University at Buffalo. This is where I used to work. The committee is called Strengthen Our Sense of Community Committee. It informed me

“The UB School of Management SSCC (Strengthen Our Sense Of Community Committee) is working with AMillionThanks.org to send thank-you notes to members of our military (active, reserve and veterans). During the week of February 7 to 11, there will be a table set up in the Alfiero Center Atrium. Please stop down and write a brief note of appreciation and gratitude to send to our men and women serving our country. We have over 200 note cards to fill out, please spread the word!”

Six members of the committee signed this appeal.

At 10:11 a.m., I sent a bluntly worded e-mail to the Dean of the SOM:

“The SSCC sent me this strange request. I don’t know whose idea this was, but it’s a bad idea. The UB School of Management should not be involved in politics! This kind of thing supports the military, but such support is a political thing. A huge number of people object to using the military in such ventures as Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as many, many other places in the world. Therefore, such support coming from UB definitely takes a political position that is not neutral. The School has no business taking such a stance. I won’t wash the School’s dirty linen in public, but if this idea is not dropped, I surely will inform the Provost and the President of the University.”

The Dean replied to me that night at 11:44 p.m., writing

“Thank you for your e-mail. I appreciate the concern you have expressed. I wish to assure you that the School of Management should absolutely stay out of politics, to me this is axiomatic in the academic community. However, I do not agree that the SSCC request indicates a political position. This is a volunteer activity that supports a segment of our society that serves the nation. I venture to think that veterans can be worthy of gratitude for their service without regard to their particular assignments, just as I do not consider the Vietnam memorial as a glorification of that war. It is entirely possible that others may disagree with this view, in which case they would opt not to respond to [SSCC’s] call. To my mind, suppressing an activity like this goes against the spirit of free exchange of ideas that the academy should preserve. It would also put the dean in the unwelcome position of favoring one cause over another, which I would be loathe to do. I will try to be vigilant that future volunteer efforts of this kind maked [sic] the non-political nature of the effort more explicit.”

At 5:30 a.m. the next morning, having read the Dean’s reply, I responded at some length as follows:

“I wish I could agree with you 100%, but I cannot, for I find contradictions in your thinking about this.

“1. You say ‘…absolutely stay out of politics…’ That is my position too, and I agree it’s ‘axiomatic’.

“2. Does the SSCC activity breach this axiom? Yes, indeed. How else are we to understand what I was told? It says ‘The UB School of Management SSCC (Strengthen OurSense Of Community Committee) is working with AmillionThanks.org to send thank-you notes to members of our military(active, reserve and veterans). During the week of February 7 to 11, there will be a table set up in the Alfiero Center Atrium. Please stop down and write a brief note of appreciation and gratitude to send to our men and women serving our country. We have over 200 note cards to fill out, please spread the word!’

“The SSCC decided this was a worthwhile activity. It decided to partner with a supportive group. It designated a time and place, within the SOM, as a locus for the activity. It asked people and encouraged them to participate. It took the political position that these men and women are serving the country, when that is the very thing that is non-neutral, for many believe they are not serving the country but other interests and the State. They encouraged spreading the word.

“They advertised the organization AMillionThanks. Its activity is thoroughly political. I quote [from their website]: ‘A Million Thanks is a year-round campaign to show our appreciation for our U.S. Military Men and Women, past and present, for their sacrifices, dedication, and service to our country through our letters, emails, cards, and prayers.’ Who do you think commands them? The executive-in-chief. To do what? Aren’t wars political? Who pays for these wars? How? Through taxes. Aren’t those politically determined?

“What do you think all of that activity is, if not political activity?

“I have strongly to disagree with you.

“To make my point, what if the SSCC had done the opposite? What if it partnered with a peace group and encouraged a campaign to ask Congress to stop funding these wars? What if it organized a campaign of writing letters to soldiers asking them to STAND DOWN and not obey immoral orders in immoral wars that kill civilians? What if it organized protests against some egregious activities of soldiers in these wars?

“Would you tell me that this is not political?

“I shouldn’t have to spell this out for you. You are an intelligent man. I think you have not thought through this clearly enough, and so I have to make you understand that your position is superficial and wrong in being inconsistent with the axiom that you propose and that is correct.

“There are those who are grateful to the military, but there are those who are not. That is true. That implies that the SOM should not take a position one way or another by the activities involved in providing a locus and focus for one side and encouraging the expression of one side.

“You express a very naive attitude toward this, which is that support of troops in this way doesn’t support the activities that these troops engage in, but it does. It is merely one step removed, because these troops join and are paid to do these tasks. The money is exacted by the government. The troops willingly become part of a political process that has a military manifestation.

“I request that you stop this activity as quickly as possible and certainly do nothing like it in the future. If that prohibition needs to be made explicit in the code of the SOM, that should be done.”

At 8:46 a.m., the Dean replied:

“It is clear that we disagree. I have nothing further to contribute as I do not find it appropriate for a dean to engage in a discussion of political leanings or preferences.”

I then informed the Provost, as I said I would. I left the President out of it since he has resigned. I sent the Provost all the e-mails and added these comments:

“It seems to me that the SOM is engaging in political activity when it should not. The Dean and I disagree on this.

“A committee in the SOM is acting as a locus and focus to encourage a letter-writing campaign to U.S. military personnel.

“My ideas on this and the Dean’s ideas are contained in the attached exchange of e-mails.

“I’d like to see the SOM cease this activity and return to a true state of neutrality, which means saying and doing nothing one way or another with respect to military personnel. Disengagement seems to me to be neutral.

“Dean Assad seems to think that using SOM facilities, committees, and batch e-mails to promote letters to the military is neutral. I do not. That takes a stance in favor of the military who have joined the armed forces willingly and who willingly become instruments of the political policies of U.S. administrations. Since these by nature are political and meet with disagreement in the nation, I do not see how the Dean’s position can be maintained. I think he is wrong and that the activity is wrong. I want to see it stopped.”

On Wednesday, I had a few further thoughts and passed them on to the Provost:

“Dear Dr. Tripathi,

“As you deliberate, consider another thing. In re-reading what Arjang said in his reply, I realize that he has made an argument that supports my contention. He wrote

“‘This is a volunteer activity that supports a segment of our society that serves the nation. I venture to think that veterans can be worthy of gratitude for their service without regard to their particular assignments, just as I do not consider the Vietnam memorial as a glorification of that war. It is entirely possible that others may disagree with this view, in which case they would opt not to respond to [SSCC’s] call.’

“He asserted his opinion that the activity supports ‘our society’ that ‘serves the nation’. But he admits that ‘others may disagree with this view.’ Yes, they may. That indicates that the activity is not neutral.

“In his view, what makes it neutral is that it is a ‘volunteer’ activity and that those who disagree with it can ‘opt out’. But is that true? I think not. The fact that one is not required to participate (participation is voluntary) doesn’t make it neutral politically. Imagine that this committee or some other one now comes along and looks for letters to Congress that protest against the use of the military in Iraq, or against some other current issue like national health insurance, and suppose these letters are voluntary. Does that make the activity neutral? It means that the SOM has become a forum for political matters, that e-mails are being sent in batches to everyone promoting positions, and that space is being used, and time of employees being used for political positioning. This, I say, is not neutral to politics.

“Arjang goes on to say ‘To my mind, suppressing an activity like this goes against the spirit of free exchange of ideas that the academy should preserve. It would also put the dean in the unwelcome position of favoring one cause over another, which I would be loathe to do.’ But since when is it the mission of the SOM to air political conflicts and to promote support for one side or another? And, more fundamentally, is letter-writing an aspect of any ‘free exchange of ideas’? Does Arjang propose to use the SOM facilities to have a debate on the role of the U.S. military? That would be more in line with an academic mission. It might not be the SOM’s bailiwick, but it would be consistent with a university. But taking one side of such a debate is not.

“Is the Dean favoring one cause over another by promoting this activity? I say he is. He says that if he disallowed this campaign, he’d be suppressing the free exchange of ideas. I think that is nonsense. There’s no exchange going on in this. It’s strictly one-sided. There is no SOM committee or statement that I know of that has opened up the SOM for political debates and begun to promote the school as a locus for airing particular political postures. If there were and if this activity were done properly in such a context, it might lend it the credibility that Arjang seeks. Even then, would this be a credible avenue for such activity? It doesn’t look that way. It would need a neutral committee to promote debates and exchanges. This committee has not been formed in that way or with that purpose by the appearance of its communications or by what it has chosen to do.”

“Cordially,

“Michael

This missive resulted in silence. Days passed. On February 18, I sent an e-mail to Provost Tripathi:

“Dear Dr. Tripathi,

“It’s now 9-10 days since I communicated to you, in detail, my concerns about political activity within the SOM.

“What have you decided on this matter?

“Cordially,

“Michael Rozeff (Professor Emeritus)”

Dr. Tripathi answered the next day:

“Dear Professor Rozeff,

“I apologize for my belated response. I have given this matter thought. Indeed, we are mindful that some may view the efforts of the Strengthen our Sense of Community Committee as having a political message. From my vantage point, I believe that this particular activity is, on balance, probably more aptly deemed a community service activity. This is a completely voluntary effort and faculty and staff can chose [sic] to participate or chose [sic] not to participate. I know that my perspective on this does not conform with your perspective, but as academics I think we are use [sic] to people approaching issues from different frames of reference. As I write, I know that this is not the response you were seeking, but I do hope that at least we can respect our differences of opinion at least on this matter.

“Sincerely,

“SatishTripathi”

The entire interchange ended with my final e-mail sent to Dr. Tripathi an hour later:

“Dear Dr. Tripathi,

“You know, if you had been willing to give just a little, we could find a solution. If you had simply said that in the future you’d instruct the committee to be more mindful of the kind of concerns expressed by me and to make a concerted effort to avoid any hint of political involvement, that would have sufficed.

“You didn’t do that. Instead you told me what your belief is about this particular activity. That means you were 100% nonresponsive to me and my concerns. You gave them no weight. Only your judgment mattered.

“Well, I’m sorry, but I find that an unacceptable response on your part.

“Therefore, I ask you to reconsider along the lines I’ve just mentioned. Does it not seem reasonable that the committee be made to know from you that it needs to be more mindful of crossing boundaries that should not be crossed? Doesn’t it need to know that cystic fibrosis is not the same as supporting war? Doesn’t it need to know that ‘community’ is not a catchall phrase that justifies support of everything involving any community in America? After all, there are good and bad communities.

“Sincerely,

“Michael Rozeff”

I never got an answer.

An interesting thing happened on March 17. Tripathi was chosen to be UB’s next President.

I really did not expect to change much immediately. At most I expected to plant seeds of doubt, so that the next time something like this arises, people will think twice about what they are doing. Raising doubts is a step in awakening consciousness.

It is dismaying that people who possess ordinary intelligence do not see that support of the military is a political position, and that turning a blind eye to such support in a business school is biased in favor of a political position, which in this case is pro-militarism.

I was taken aback by this military support coming to roost in a business school. This committee has all sorts of community efforts that it can support and has supported, such as its effort on cystic fibrosis. The fact that it chose to support the military could be, in my opinion, a sign of people refusing to face unpleasant facts about what the American military has been and is doing overseas. Hearing criticism, many people whose being is associated with the nation-state respond by asserting the value of the military and expressing support of it. A person indoctrinated into a supine patriotism of flag-waving and blind support of the state and its wars will naturally rally to its defense against criticism, because their person has been lost or diminished as a result of the indoctrination. They have submerged themselves into the state. Freeing them from these beliefs requires patience and continual exposure to ideas of freedom, peace, and government to which they are unaccustomed. Plant seeds and wait for their fruition. Don’t expect instant conversions. It takes time to shed old beliefs and take on new ones.