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Private Property

field fence

When I imagine an Anarchist society, one of the main things I notice is that everything is freely shared by everyone and there is no private property.

Some people get very concerned at the idea of no private property. People like their stuff and they wouldn’t want to lose it. I think some people imagine that without private property they’d be living in the forest without any possessions, scrounging for food with only the clothes on their back.

But there is an important difference between ownership and use. People can use things without owning them. And what we really want is to use things.

Scarcity models of property

What if you could have full use of all of your current clothes, but when you weren’t using them, someone else was wearing them? Would the experience of wearing a shirt be any different if someone else wore it?

The problem is that society has taught us to see everything in terms of scarcity. We think that there is not enough to go around. And so, if we want to use something, we have to own it and not let anyone else use it, so that we can use it when we want.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If we could set aside the scarcity model and embrace the abundance model, we would realize that there is enough to go around. We don’t need to stop others from using things in order to enjoy them ourselves.

“Property is Theft” – Proudhon

The Experiment

I’ve been experimenting with giving up property. It started by sharing “my” bike with a roommate when his bike was stolen. I only needed it occasionally and it usually just worked out. Sometimes we’d both want to use it and we’d work out a schedule. It worked very well and was very simple!

Since then, I’ve announced to the people I live with (there are 11 of them) that they can use anything that is “mine”, including the room I live in, whenever they want. So far, people haven’t taken advantage of the offer very much because we are so well trained not to use other people’s things. But sometimes people use the room when they want to go somewhere else to study or something.

I also have been trying to not use “possessive language,” which basically means avoiding the words “my” and “have”. It’s not as hard as it sounds and it helps shift how I think about the things I use.

“My” laptop

Honestly, the hardest thing to think about not being “mine” was the laptop. I use it so much and I have a very strong connection to it. So the thought of losing it was a big barrier to starting the experiment.

But then I realized that I wasn’t losing it. If I don’t own it, it doesn’t mean that someone else does. I could still use it, and so could anyone else. And if I needed to use it, it’d be a simple conversation about when they’d be done. That wouldn’t be so bad.

I’ve found it to be quite freeing. It’s a relief to not be tied down to things. I don’t have to worry about other people using them. They are just things that I use.

“The things you own end up owning you” – Fight Club

An Invitation

Now, I’d like to invite you to give up your possessions too! You wouldn’t have to give up all of them. Maybe start out with a few things. Offer to let other people use them whenever they want (bigger things like bikes or cars are good for this). You can pay attention to how you speak and try not to use possessive language!

Give it a shot and I’d love to hear how it goes and if you have any questions! You can write in the comments or privately.

New Direction

Hi!

We’re switching this up a bit. The blog is no longer “Anarcho Curious”, and is now “Ask an Anarchist!”.
It’s a much better name and a much better idea, and I don’t know why we didn’t think of it before.

The new direction is going to be more focused on answering common questions about anarchy. It’s also going to be paired with literally standing in public places with an “Ask an Anarchist” sign, and talking to people about anarchy. Hopefully, those great conversations will inspire some great blog posts.

It’s also going to be more open to other people contributing to the blog! So if you want to write something and send it in, or sign up to help answer questions, please just contact us!

Also, starting mid January we are going to start publishing more regularly! So you can look forward to that!

Woo!

<3

Jeremy and Zach

The Baby in the River Story – Revisited

When I was first getting into organizing and activism, I heard a classic analogy, the “Baby in the River Story,” that drives home the importance of organizing goal-based campaigns to create long lasting policy changes instead of service-only or education-only campaigns that could never end. It usually goes something like this:

Imagine you are walking along a river, having a nice stroll. Suddenly, you notice that there is a baby floating hazardously down the river! Oh no! You immediately jump into the river and save the baby! You return to the shore, but before you can go find the parents of the baby, you notice another baby in the river! And another further up! And another, and another!
So you head up stream, saving babies as you go, trying to find where all these babies are coming from. Before long you find a bridge, where there is a person throwing babies into the river. What are you to do?

Should you gather your friends and spend all day every day fishing babies out of the river?
Should you post flyers around town, make documentaries, and have teach-ins to spread the word and educate people about the river baby problem?
Or should you go up and actually stop the person from throwing more babies in the river?”

Since hearing this story I’ve always asked myself if what I’m doing is really going to the heart of the issue and solving the problem at the source. But as I’ve learned more about the intersections of systems of oppression and how most problems are themselves symptoms of larger and larger issues, I realized that there is an important part that is missing from the Baby in the River story:

Why are they throwing babies in the river?”

If every issue is someone throwing babies into a river, then there are thousands of rivers and thousands of babies that need saving. And for every baby-thrower we stop, there is another one to take their place.

Current Society

In our current society we have a lot of problems: racism, patriarchy, bigotry, poverty, healthcare, houselessness, pollution, climate destabilization, I could go on and on. These all have individual solutions, and there are great people working on all of them.

But what is causing all of these? What are the sources of the sources?

Many have answered “Corporate Influence.” I would definitely agree that this is a common thread for many of them, but does this really explain it all? Aren’t corporations just doing what they are supposed to do in a capitalistic society: Make more money. Is it their fault that they are too good at it?

When the system is based on self-interest, greed, the concentration of wealth, and constant growth, should we surprised when that is what we get? No matter how many regulations we put on capitalism, this is the direction it will always be striving for, with ruthless efficiency.

Anarchy

Instead, of using an economic system that condoned slavery, why don’t we create a system with the values that we actually want? Why don’t we work together to create a system based on freedom, equality, and community? A system where we don’t have to regulate it to restrain its destructive drive, because it doesn’t have one? What would that look like? What would you want it to look like?

Anarchy doesn’t have specific answers to all these questions, because it doesn’t do much good to replace one rigid system with another. Anarchy answers with principles such as equality, freedom, and mutual aid, and leaves the specifics up to everyone to decide. Anarchy challenges all of us to stop giving away our power to an elite minority and to come up with our own answers.

So why are there so many people throwing babies into the river? and how do we stop it? I don’t know. I think there are a lot of answers, and I’m excited to continue exploring them with you.