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“What you advocate for is too extreme. Why can’t you compromise?” 

There are moderates in every age who hem and haw about the injustices of their time. But I think there are moral absolutes. It’s just not obvious to everyone until afterwards. 

Slavery was wrong. Unequivocally. Segregation and Jim Crow was wrong. Child labor was wrong. Monarchies were wrong (there are still monarchies but in name only, without the absolute power of the past). Women not having rights was wrong. Apartheid was wrong. The list goes on. There are absolutes. Some things are just wrong. 

But they weren’t seen as absolutes at the time. Moderates and centrists asked “But how will we do that?” “That will change everything” “Our system/economy is built on this, how could we do things another way?” “Can’t we compromise?” “Can’t we slow down?” “You’re asking for too much.” They were scared of change and of losing their positions of power and privilege. 

Every courageous leader, every successful movement, every person we look back on as a hero, worked toward a fundamental rejection of the status quo and the systems that existed at the time. They saw injustice and they opposed it. Unequivocally. And so they were all seen as extreme in their time and opposed (and often murdered). Now we see them as heroes and visionaries. And opposition to their causes are the ones that are viewed as extreme. 

As always, MLK said it well:

“I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

– Letter from a Birmingham jail (

In our current time, I would say:

Keeping children in cages is wrong (happened under Obama, Trump, and still with Biden). People going bankrupt in order to live (healthcare) is wrong. The global caste system of borders is wrong. Police killing people is wrong. People having to live on the streets is wrong. Forcing anyone into cages (prison) is wrong. Poisoning air, water, and land is wrong. Burning fossil fuels is wrong. Destroying the planet’s ability to support future generations is wrong. People going hungry is wrong. People being forced to leave their homes is wrong (evictions and deportations). People profiting off the labor of others is wrong (capitalism). People not having access to healthcare is wrong. Discriminating against gay or trans people is wrong. And much much more. 

I think these are moral absolutes. Society doesn’t see them that way yet, but I think eventually it will, as we do with the injustices of the past. 

All of these things (both now and in the past) have been done or were done by a state (nation). That is part of why anarchist oppose the state. And all of it is enforced or protected by police (who are the violent arm of the state). That is why we oppose police. Together they create, uphold, and enforce these unjust systems. 

Some suggested readings: 


Jim asks

What if someone a lot bigger, and more heavily armed than you wants to beat the crap out of you? Seriously, how does that go in your system?

In anarchy, people would band together with others in their community to stop a bully. Community self defense can be very effective.  

In statist systems, no one is bigger or more heavily armed than the state. They have a monopoly on legitimate violence and they use it to set up a protection racket: If you don’t do what their violent thugs (cops) say, they have the power to beat you up with minimal consequences. And if you don’t work to make profit for the their elite or don’t pay their protection fee (taxes), their thugs (cops) will force you out of your home, beat the crap out of you if you resist, and put you in a cage (prison). The state is responsible for more violence than any individual bully (or crime syndicate) could ever dream of. 

Branches in a Storm


Epic blanket fort at The Academy

Last winter, there was a slight freeze followed by a strong wind storm that blew down brittle branches and downed many trees in Eugene. Power was out for a lot of the city and there were branches everywhere. In response, the community house where I live made a rockin’ blanket fort in the living room and watched the Lord of the Rings. A good time was had by all (except probably for the city workers who had to clean up the mess).

The next morning, a bunch of branches blocked part of the sidewalk near the house. They stayed there for probably two weeks while city workers focused on more important power outages and major blockages.

A small vision of anarchy

As I walked around the branches blocking the sidewalk, I realized that in an anarchist society, they would have already been cleaned up. The day after the storm someone would have gone out, seen the damage, asked a few neighbors for a saw and some assistance, and the neighborhood could have removed the branches in a few hours. Maybe other neighbors could have cooked dinner for the workers and there could have been a nice potluck afterwards where people could warm up. Everyone could have gone home feeling a little closer to their neighbors, knowing they helped contribute to the well being of the community.

But, of course, that didn’t happen. There are many reasons it didn’t happen: People are tired after a long day of producing wealth and leisure for others; there are no (or few) pre-existing ties between neighbors, making it awkward to knock on a stranger’s door; it could take away the city workers’ jobs; we are told that it is not in our interest to do work that doesn’t directly benefit us; and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were illegal for individuals to clean up storm debris. Everyone waited for the City to take care of it for them. How much faster could the roads have been cleaned if people felt empowered to take action?

Where did the power go?

This is a minor example of a much larger problem. The current system discourages people from solving problems themselves so they will depend on other institutions (government, businesses) to solve problems for them. Everyone is trained and taught to give away power to someone else: First at school, then in jobs, and in government, we are always deferring to someone else to make decisions. So, when something needs to get done, we expect someone else to take care of it, like they do everything else.


Do we really need a product to hold used apple cores? And you could eat way more of that apple!

You can see it in the government, which makes new laws for every little nuisance. You can see it in the court system, where people turn to the government to solve interpersonal problems.And you can see it in products that solve non-existent problems.

“When ignorance reigns in society and disorder in the minds of men, laws are multiplied, legislation is expected to do everything, and each fresh law being a fresh miscalculation, men are continually led to demand from law what can proceed only from themselves, from their own education and their own morality.” – Kropotkin

Let’s stop deferring


So let’s stop deferring! Even if it’s just a little bit at a time, it’s a good muscle to strengthen. Next time there is a storm, I will ask the neighborhood for help so we can clean up as a community. It will remind me, and others, that we don’t need other people do to everything for us and can accomplish great things if we work together. And the next time there is a need, it will be that much easier!

Can you think of any other examples where people defer to others? Is there anything you’ve thought about doing with a community? Let us know in the comments!