Awe, come on! A little anarchy never hurt nobody! Be a devil! Give it a try, won’t you? Just this once.
This here is your real scarlet letter. It stands for some pretty nasty ideas: anarchy, for starters. Likewise, we have atheism, the theological equivalent of anarchism. Then there’s that rarely-employed synonym for anarchy: autonomy. Back in New England it was said to represent adultery, but today it might better represent adulthood.
Thar be fearsome ideas off to port, Captain!
That’ll be the Forbidden Zone, where men are forced to think for themselves.
I recently encountered a rather engaging discussion of anarchism on the Aussie radio show The Philosopher’s Zone, one of my favorite podcasts. The featured guest was Professor Robert Paul Wolff of the University of Massachusetts, a notable philosophical anarchist and author of In Defense of Anarchism.
Listening to Professor Wolff reminds me of reading Henry David Thoreau, who, disgusted with slavery, aggression against Mexico, and other crimes of his democratic government, wrote “Civil Disobedience” and passages such as the following:
Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then?
There comes a time when a man asks himself whether it is moral to submit to an immoral king, an immoral majority, or an immoral God. Most of us seem all too willing to delegate all moral agency to the mob, the state, or to God. Why are we so afraid of grappling with morality? Perhaps we’re too lazy to want to make difficult decisions about right and wrong. Perhaps we are afraid of the responsibility that moral anarchism places upon us.
Isn’t it high time for us to grow up?
Gosh, living in a world where we’re responsible for our actions solely because we want to live in peace and do things that our beneficial to the people around us, and not because some invisible cosmic thunderer will tut-tut us after we die, sounds almost too radical to be believed. It might even (dare I speak it?) make the world a better place because people would put more resources into helping others and spend less time killing each other to prove one fictional deity is superior to another. Yes, it sounds frightening but I’d like to give it a try.