Anarchy is Boring

(The Stranger) The first self-described anarchist I ever met was a Greek medical technician sticking electrodes to my scalp. I was around 14 at the time, and I’d had a seizure in my parents’ driveway a few days earlier. The doctors wanted to test me for epilepsy, which involved using electrodes to read my brain’s electrical activity while a strobe light flashed in my face.

Somehow, the technician and I started talking about Henry David Thoreau, and he said he admired Thoreau’s anarchist ethics. I said I didn’t know what that meant. As I recall, he explained it roughly like this: There is an inherent tension between autonomy and authority, and authority structures do not hold legitimate moral power over individuals who haven’t helped to create that structure and consented to live by its rules.

I had trouble wrapping my head around that one.

He asked if I had any vote in choosing my school principal. I hadn’t. Well, he explained cheerfully while sticking electrodes to my head, if you’re living by Thoreau’s anarchist principles, you have no ethical duty to obey him.  (continue)