The second pillar we will be discussing is Ethics. This post will have two parts, as it has a number of components that need explaining.
But before I begin, I want to make something clear about the purpose of this blog, and the purpose of the pillars. It is common in today’s society that everybody has an opinion on what needs to be done. Few people are actually providing a how. Explaining how something is achieved, with step-by-step instructions, is hard to come by. This entire blog, the future podcasts, youtube videos, etc…are intended to provide some semblance of a how, while also trying to provide a what as well.
Now that that is out of the way, let’s get on to the good stuff.
To begin, when we speak of ethics, what we will be describing is a way in which a person ought to act. Ethics is concerned with knowing what is true, and then acting appropriately with that truth. There are many kinds of ethical philosophies in the world – utilitarianism advocates for performing acts of the most (and highest form of, preferably) pleasure, while creating the least pain. Deontology says an act is ethical when it is our duty to perform it. Hedonism tells us what is ethical is what is pleasurable, and what we want to do. Ethical egoism advocates that people act in their own self-interest. On top of the various ethical philosophies out there, religion also attempts to answer questions about ethics as well. So what sets our ethics apart, and what does it say, if anything, about these other forms of ethics?
Well, firstly, the anarchist system of ethics has a strong foundation because it is broken down into its most basic components. One version this takes, and appropriately so, is what has commonly been referred to as the NAP, or the “non-aggression principle.” It is a simple ethic, and all it really calls for is to never initiate aggression against others. Some pacifists even take it a step further and have determined for themselves to never even act in self-defense. Ghandi, or Jesus, are good examples of this. This ethic, as I will mention many times, is a passive form of ethics. It doesn’t require you to do something, but rather to not do anything. In this case, initiate aggression of any kind. What does this mean for anarchists?
When I say the second Pillar of Anarchy is Ethics, what I am saying generally is that I do not believe the anarchy that most of us are advocating for can exist without people, at the very least, staying out of each other’s way. Specifically, it means that an anarchistic society will only flourish if people act in an ethical manner. But what does that mean? How does one act ethically in an anarchistic society? What does that look like? And what motivates someone to keep that kind of mentality up within an anarchistic society? Let’s try to answer these questions one at a time.
What does it mean to act in an ethical manner in an anarchistic society? It means this: Firstly, understanding the proper concept of liberty, as discussed in the previous blog. Understanding negative liberty is understanding that nobody owes you anything. You are not entitled to anything, any act, any service, or any object by anybody else. The reverse is also true – nobody else is entitled to the fruits of your labor, your labor itself, or your property. This basic understanding of negative liberty goes a long way towards building a peaceful and truly anarchistic society. It is a passive system of ethics that simply requires you to act in a manner in which you yourself would prefer to be treated. The golden rule applies 100% here.
How does one act in an ethical society? Negative liberty is generally a passive concept. Considerateness, a concept that will be more fully explored in later blogs, is always encouraged. However, at the very least, allow other people to live their lives, and expect nothing from them aside from their respect of your liberty. And vice versa. The 14th Dali Lama put it like this – “The essence of Buddhism is, if you can, to help others. If not, then at least refrain from hurting others.” The essence of Buddhism, it seems, is the essence of true anarchy, as well.