Friday, January 31, 2014

Justified self-defense

I was skimming a thread about technology on an infoshop forum. The topic of discussion was whether an anti-tech anarchist had the “right” to destroy someone else’s technology. It seemed to at least one of the discussants that to claim the right to destroy what another has freely chosen runs against the grain of basic anarchist ideals.

Ignoring the fact that “technology” was being tossed around in its limited sense as a synonym for physical mechanisms and contraptions, what was missing in the discussion—from both sides of the debate—was any sort of awareness of how any specific technological device comes about in the first place. The ideals of anarchism—if they were to be given potency in the real world—rule out the possibility of any product of industrial manufacture. In order to get the tech in the first place, other people need to be coerced, tortured, enslaved, brainwashed, threatened, or otherwise “convinced” to offer up their labor and compliance in ways that range from subtly exploitive to heinously cruel. Whether the person playing the role of “end user” freely chose to do so does not somehow erase the massive and myriad acts of oppression that are required for virtually every facet of the technology’s production, developmental history, deployment, and maintenance.

I quickly found myself agreeing with the person who claimed the “right” to destroy existing technology. Even if the technology in question is claimed to be freely chosen by the person using it, it was most certainly not freely created.

But even further, each one of us has the “right” to destroy as a simple matter of self-defense. Anything that affects the commons has the potential to affect both you and me. And, according to the basic ideals of anarchism (or at least according to my own basic anarchist ideals), nobody has a privileged claim to any feature of the world beyond their immediate person. If the technology in question has any negative impact on the natural world (all modern tech does), then it has a potential negative impact on all whose lives depend on the natural world, and to destroy it becomes matter of self-preservation.

Today’s test question is an analogy problem: A logging corporation is to spiking trees as global consumer mass society is to _______.

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