Boldly Going Nowhere

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Anarchy in West Virginia

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republicans whom I can't stand, one nation under smog, indespicable with liberty and justice for some, not all."

The above words were inscribed on one of the T-shirts of 15-year-old Katie Sierra, a student at Sissonville High School in West Virginia. Some of her other T-shirts expressed opposition to the war in Afghanistan and similar perceived injustices. The fact that she was a new student with green hair and the World Trade Center Twin Towers had recently ceased to exist didn't exactly endear her to the rest of the conservative student body.

On October 23, 2001, Katie asked the school principal, Forrest Mann, if she could start an Anarchy Club so like-minded students could meet, have discussions and do community service. She presented Mann with the club constitution that made it clear the club would not tolerate hate or violence. Her stated goal was "to dispel the myths about anarchism, especially the belief that anarchy is chaos and destruction."

Not too surprisingly, this request was about as welcome as a leaky bag of raw sewage. Not only was Katie forbidden to form an Anarchy Club, she was suspended from school for three days for "disrupting school activity."

Webster's dictionary defines anarchism as "a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups." In other words, anarchy basically means the absence of government. It's the opposite of hierarchy, which denotes various levels of authority.

The Britannica defines anarchism as "the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government -- harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being."

There are many people who believe in this way of life. They contend that as both political philosophy and personal lifestyle, social anarchism promotes community self-reliance, direct participation in political decision-making, respect for nature, and nonviolent paths to peace and justice. The anarchy movement has a long history in certain European countries, particularly in France and Germany.

As with most utopian schemes, it looks good in theory but won't work in reality. I remember back in the 60s and 70s when groups of dissatisfied folks, often called Hippies back then, rejected conventional society and formed communes. Almost every one of these entities failed, usually within a very short time frame.

While being exact opposites, anarchy and communism are almost the same thing. In communism, everyone is considered equal, required to put forth an equal effort and given an equal amount in return. This would be a perfect world as long as everyone felt the same way. But those who disagree are virtually prisoners of the system, often sent off to a padded cell to be re-educated. Plus, those in control of the system can't seem to curtail their greed and provide more for themselves than they allow for the masses.

Anarchy has the same drawback. It only works if everyone agrees with it. A world without government is a world without rules and there will always be those who take improper advantage of it.

Katie Sierra deserves better. She has an unpopular belief system and wants to share it with others. Instead of allowing a free flow of ideas, her school principal chose to silence her. America is not a place where the majority rule -- it's where we are all allowed to think and speak freely.

There's nothing wrong with a little government, especially locally. Personally, I like roads. If we could somehow reduce the federal government by about 90 percent, that would be fine with me, too.